No, I’m not talking about the infamous thigh gap. Having been blessed with strong legs that are simultaneously helpful for delivering a semi-decent roundhouse kick and also incredibly unhelpful for finding jeans that fit well, my thighs have always met in the middle, although when the big thigh gap craze of 2013 was raging, I was most excited to discover I sort of had one if I tried to squeeze my knees outwards while standing straight (insider tip, glow mamas, this is not a comfortable way to stand and a brief thigh gap is not worth the extra brain cells it takes to hold yourself in such an awkward position). It definitely wasn’t the be all and end all of my body image or defining point of self worth, but I do remember feeling a rather lukewarm sense of skinny accomplishment and satisfaction, however deluded that may have been at the time.
But I digress.
The gap I actually wanted to write about is the age gap between my two kids. Having had my first at quite a young age, I wasn’t in a position to be rushing out and giving him a sibling in any hurry. I had things to discover, life experiences to catch up on, growing up to do. I think he was about three when he first asked when I was going to have another baby, then the poor soul had to wait another six years until I finally did. Good things take time, and all that, and he’s a wonderful big brother, but I tell you what, you forget a lot about parenting in nine years and childbirth becomes a distant memory (until early labour starts; then, helpfully, the memories of just how painful it is come flooding back… Timing is everything).
As parents of older children will know, and as I am still finding out, just when you think you’re getting your head around how to deal with the current developmental, emotional and physical age your kids are in, they up and change on you. Suddenly you’re left feeling slightly bewildered and out of your depth again. I’m also discovering that as we enter each stage of development, memories of the previous stage quickly dim in my brain, and I can’t really remember how we got through it. So it’s been a bit of an adjustment to parent both boys in vastly different stages of their childhoods, to stay adaptable and to (attempt to) be in tune with their different needs. It will no doubt get harder as they get older and littlest man starts to realise that there are things that his brother gets to do that he doesn’t, and eldest little man starts complaining that littlest man gets to do things much earlier than he ever did. Not that I’m speaking from experience from my own childhood, or anything.
I’ve definitely changed as a parent over the last nine years, partly due to age, partly due to experience, partly due to knowledge. I’ve also changed as a person and as a woman due to those reasons as well. I’m definitely more confident now, non-existent thigh gap and all. But I’m also more unsure, partly because now I have a better idea of how much I don’t know. I always thought I would have evolved into a fully fledged adult by now, the scary end of my twenties, but I don’t feel it. I don’t feel qualified enough to teach my eldest little man – or my littlest man for that matter – how to become a decent grown up because I feel I still have so much growing up to do.
Ah well, lucky there’s such a big gap then. By the time the first one’s an adult I can see where I’ve stuffed up in time to save the next one.
All jokes aside though, sometimes it’s awesome having such a big age gap, because eldest little man is pretty self sufficient now and is old enough to be incredibly helpful with his little brother. But it’s also hard, it’s hard finding activities our whole family can do together, and it’s hard balancing time between the two since one currently needs a lot more hands on time than the other, and I don’t want either of them feeling left out or neglected or cast aside. It’s the eternal tug of war between being equal and being fair. As a mum, I feel stretched and torn and anxious about how to spend my time fairly with my kids and my partner and myself. I feel worried that I’m not giving everyone enough attention, and am quite often bombarded with mum guilt and inner criticism. Although I don’t think that’s purely because there’s a big age gap; I’m sure most parents of more than one child feel the same at some point or other.
I quite often feel bad that eldest little man is given so much responsibility in comparison to his younger brother – we as parents know that littlest man will get the same when he reaches that age, but for eldest little man I’m sure that will feel like a lifetime away, and I remember that when I was his age, things that were going to happen more than a week in the future pretty much didn’t count. But I also look at how he cares for his brother, and how much he’s grown emotionally and socially since he was born, and think that maybe becoming a big brother at 9 was really good for him – he has always loved being helpful (sometimes to my despair, because “help” from kids isn’t always all that helpful) and now he has ample opportunity to do so, and do it well at that.
No doubt I won’t find out until they’re both older whether I’ve successfully handled the gap and transition from one child to two. So far, though, they both seem happy enough (I think!), and both know that they are loved and valued and cherished. I figure that’s a pretty good start.
Until next time, glow mamas!