Having my kids all together at the weekend really made me think about the age gap between my children. Freddy is 2 1/2 years old. Kizzy is 9, Ella is almost 16, Megan is 20 and Joe is 23. With each subsequent baby, my age gaps just kept getting bigger. This has resulted in a 20+ year age gap between oldest and youngest. This makes our family dynamic quite interesting!
As with anything, there are pros and cons to any situation. I never had two babies in nappies to contend with. I never had a newly potty trained toddler regress at the birth of a sibling. Nor did I ever have two similarly aged tots vie for my undivided attention resulting in squabbles and screaming. I've been able to give undivided attention to each new baby, without having to juggle demanding tots with newborns. Most major developmental milestones have been reached before having to start all over again with the next new addition to the family. Although of course this means dragging out the years spent dealing with nappies, breastfeeding, bed sharing and buggies!
Holidays and days out have been incredibly difficult over the years with such differing needs to be catered for. Booking a hotel has been a nightmare with older children counting as adults and requiring their own rooms. Free child places for 2 adults and 2 children under 7 have never quite worked for us. Things like the cinema and theme parks have seen our family have to divide into two groups, with either Ian or me 'babysitting' while the other one goes off with the older kids. Pitching events to appeal to all members of our family has not been easy, making sure that there is suitable entertainment for the big kids alongside engaging activities for the little ones. The years of intense parenting and school runs stretches out in front of me. I've done 19 years of being a mum to a school age child and have a further 16 years ahead until Freddy leaves compulsory education! 35 years of school runs!! Next year when Fred starts nursery I'll have three kids in three completely different schools...logistical nightmare!
Saying that though, having older children has meant I have always had willing and competent helpers on hand. New siblings have been born into a loving family of children old enough to really take on the role of a care giver. This has enriched the lives of the younger two children no end. The older children are huge sources of support for me in all areas of my life. With them moving home and starting their own adult lives, our relationship has changed and evolved. I love having them there to talk to about family problems and get their opinion on things. They are such great role models for the younger children. If ever things get tough with the younger kids, I can look at the older two, successful products of my parenting, and know that it will all work out OK in the end!
Sometimes it creates confusion having tots and teens at the same time. When Fred was a tiny baby, me and Meg went shopping together. She was pushing the pushchair and someone approached us saying that they could tell where Freddy got his good looks from. I basked in the glory for all of two seconds before they said "Of course, grandma is good looking too!" Oh the shame! Similarly Ella has been tutted at by old people who mutter about teen mums when she is looking after Freddy on her own. The girls are all so maternal over their little brother, I know they will, in the future, be great mums themselves. They have had hands on experience with all the responsibilities that come with having a baby. When I had Joe, I'd had hardly any experience with babies. It was all new to me and rather daunting. I'm glad my girls will not feel that way.
Some might say that I've 'missed out' on my carefree twenties and have never got to enjoy any personal freedom because I've always had at least one little one to take care of. I have pencilled in some "me time" when I'm 58!! I just hope I've got the energy to do all the things that have been put on hold. One thing's for sure though, I feel utterly blessed and after everything is taken into account, I wouldn't have my family any other way!