A tale of two sisters – how do you deal with age gaps?

After school today we are going to Pizza Hut. I am anticipating mild bickering, but I am hoping the pizza and unlimited orange squash will unite them at least temporarily. There is a seven-year age gap between my two daughters, and at seven and fourteen, it has never felt so significant.

When Belle was a baby, Bee was an enthusiastic seven-year old, keen to help her mummy by doing Useful Jobs and still up for shared baths. It was a period of smugness for me. I looked at other friends, struggling with two or three kids under four and I thought I’d been pretty canny. I never had the problem of how to amuse a toddler whilst breastfeeding a baby – Bee was genuinely useful and could be relied upon to sit nicely doing some colouring and fetch me snacks as required.

Seven years later and my smugness has worn off. Now my friends have siblings who play together happily for hours at a time, leaving their parents to do the weekend crossword, drink cappuccino, and other grown up things I always imagine other people to be doing. My darling daughters however seem unable to be in the same room alone for more than 20 seconds without some kind of argument erupting. Belle is a bouncy child, always looking for someone to play with her. Bee is a sullen teenager, always keen for people to leave her well alone.

And so it is that we end up with outings to Pizza Hut being one of the only things that both of them enjoy. Holidays and days out are getting harder and harder. Bee doesn’t particularly want to hang out with Belle anyway, and hanging out in a toy shop or an indoor play centre is her idea of hell. The last time we went out for the day altogether Bee spent most of her time sat in the car.

Being a single parent makes the situation much harder to manage. When there are two of you, you can share the load and split the outings. If I had a useful father figure, he could take Belle off for wholesome outdoor activities while I took Bee to the cinema to watch cheesy rom-coms and eat overpriced sweets. Day to day parenting would be so much easier too. Ultimately, there is only one of me, and as much as I try to be all things to all people I can only spread myself so thin. Sometimes I feel I can’t have a proper conversation with one child without somehow neglecting the other.

So I am asking for help – do you have a big age gap between your kids and how do you manage it, how can I make sure both sets of needs get met? Is there anything we can do as a family that won’t be met with groans? Bracing walks in the countryside are unpopular with them both, but a venue with a cafe/gift shop combo usually goes down well.

Alternatively, if your kids are close in age, you have a useless husband and you find parenting generally hellish, let me know. At least then I can take comfort in another person’s misery…

Pizza Hut

23 Comments

  1. 23 February, 2010 / 12:18 pm

    My oldest two are 22 months apart – a son and then a daughter. My husband was a useless piece of…(well nuf said!) To make matters worse once my daughter arrived we moved to live in Australia. I couldn’t walk after the Csection but I moved to another country with two babies. My oldest has ‘learning difficulties’ and my baby had colic. I just disappeared into depression and a bottle (or five) of wine. Can’t remember much about Dark Princesses’ early life at all. You have my sympathy!! Nay, you have my empathy. When third little one was born four years after I had three kids and an absent father. Joy! Much love and hugs. You’re doing the very best you can.

    • 23 February, 2010 / 12:34 pm

      Gosh, that all sounds a bit crap – I would feel bad about taking any comfort from that! I hardly remember any of my girls’ childhoods either, regardless of wine/depression – the whole baby era is so weird in a simultaneously stressful/dull way that I think I blocked most of it out. Come to think of it, us mums are pretty ace really aren’t we? x

  2. Camilla
    23 February, 2010 / 12:21 pm

    I have a six year age gap between #1 and #2 and a nine year age gap between #1 and #3. It’s a bit sucky tbh. #1 doesn’t want to do anything the other two can do. And #2 and #3 can’t do the things #1 wants to do (are you keeping up?) I feel really guilty that I’m not taking #1 off to do Big Kid stuff as he seems to benefit least from all this and in a couple of years, he won’t want to even been seen doing things that really little kids do (play centres, playgrounds etc) but we have babysitting issues that is problematic for dividing up the kids.

    If you come up with any solutions, let me know!

    • 23 February, 2010 / 12:36 pm

      I think you’re right about the eldest being the one to lose out. I tend to focus more on the younger one, imagining that ‘older = needing less from their mum’, but actually being a teenager is such a tough time, she probably needs me more than ever. I’ll keep on trying and let you know if I come up with any answers!

  3. 23 February, 2010 / 12:39 pm

    I have a 5 and half yr gap between mine, but at the mo H is 19mths and B is 7 so as you say I am feeling quite smug in that B loves to help (most of the time) – BUT I am already beginning to realise it is only going to get harder. B is constantly being told she cant get out her beads or other art things when H is about because 1. I can’t help her learn what to do and 2. H would want to join in. There was the exact same gap between me and my bro. We used to get dragged fishing as a family and both hated it! I remember we had lots of days out to places that catered for all – theme parks, museums etc. We holiday’ed at Butlins one year and that was great as it meant we both got to do what we liked. Maybe it’s because we were the opposit sex and ddn’t want to be involved in playing together anyway! It was when we were into our teens we got really bad – but that didn’t last long coz I left home as soon as I could lol! I guess I plan to try and do the same and am lucky I have my parents round the corner to help out so I can do stuff with each of them individually occassionally!

    • 23 February, 2010 / 1:55 pm

      Course not! Thanks for the mention :-)

  4. 23 February, 2010 / 4:44 pm

    we have 2 years between ours and it seems to work well. i’m not sure there is a right and wrong though, it depends so much on their personalities – which of course you don’t know until they are born…

    • 24 February, 2010 / 10:07 pm

      I think two years is a nice gap, but you’re right – if only we could know in advance what they were going to be like!

  5. 23 February, 2010 / 6:47 pm

    For me its not an age thing as mine are 2 1/2 years apart ( one boy, one girl) and struggle to get along. They use to get along and there are rare moments when they do but I think most sibling go through it. When hormones and personalities start developing they are bound to clash at some point. Being a single mum and dealing with this is hard as you say. I feel I am either not dealing with it correctly or I am not being fair on one of them. Dealing with rivaling siblings is very tireing. Probably more tired now then when they were tiny.

    • 24 February, 2010 / 10:08 pm

      I’ve always though a boy and a girl must be extra tricky and even harder to find something they both like doing. I’m sure you are doing everything right though and that all mums worry about that, whether or not they have a dad on the scene. x

  6. 23 February, 2010 / 7:50 pm

    This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. I share your pain. I have an 8 year age gap between my boy and girl. At the moment he is still really good with her (he says he finds her fascinating) and will help out. Probably too much for a 10 year old. But I know when he hits teenagedom it will evaporate – if not before. We have the same difficulties you speak about. There’s not that many activities they can both do. My son loves going to the cinema and when she was tiny I used to take her too wearing those ear defenders you see at music festivals. But now she wouldn’t sit through a film and neither would I expect her to. We go to the beach a lot! I think he misses out. We tend to do relay parenting where my husband takes him and I take her – it must be even harder being a single parent so hats off to you.

    There is a 7 year age gap between me and my younger sister.I was always leaving school just as she was starting, was at university by the time she was a teenager, so I remember what it was like.

    So after that rather long comment, I’m afraid to say I haven’t really got any solutions. But, as other commenters have said, even if you have a small age gap they don’t always get on. And I could never have done two under two.

    • 24 February, 2010 / 10:10 pm

      Blimey – an eight year gap AND different genders. That is going to be pretty tricky I reckon. Although, having said that, I sometimes think teenage boys are actually a lot more mature and easy to get on with than we give them credit for. My teenager is completely at the mercy of her hormones and seems to get very easily frustrated and irritated, so maybe you will escape that a little bit.

      Do you get on well with your sister now you are both older?

  7. 23 February, 2010 / 8:46 pm

    I’ve got 14months then 2 1/2 years and a useful husband. Just perfect huh?

    No chance. The littlest copies the biggest, I give the biggest into trouble coz she “knows better”, the littlest can’t keep up, middle gets upset coz shes not the biggest or smallest, they scream and fight and argue and break each others toys.

    It’s not always bad, its mostly good but its not easy, Remember I’ve had two terrible twos at the same time, and I’ll have three girls all hitting puberty at once….feeling smug again?

    Good!

    • 24 February, 2010 / 10:06 pm

      Three girls all going through puberty?? Yes, I do feel suddenly smug again, thank you! :-)

  8. teachermum
    23 February, 2010 / 10:24 pm

    18 months vbetween 1 and 2 then over 4 years to number 3 – and I would go for the bigger gap everytime. My older son has been really good at playing with/ looking after the little one and my daughter rules over all serenely from her number 1 position. The time between the oldest one being 2 and a half and her brother being 1 until she hit 4 was awful. Little one does miss out a bit because the others like other things – and he got into those things earlier – but he still loves his cuddles!

    • 24 February, 2010 / 10:05 pm

      I just don’t think I could do 18 months – hats off to you!

  9. 1 March, 2010 / 5:38 pm

    I have three daughters – same sex = good:) The eldest two are just one year apart and they are very close, most of the time. The youngest is three years younger. I found having two close together much easier, they pretty much hit all the milestones together and could go to movies, parties, friend’s houses etc. together too. (Yes, I know they will hit puberty together too, but at least it will be over quicker too.)

    That three year gap though, that’s harder. My baby can’t and doesn’t want to see the movies that my older girls go to see. On the other hand they don’t want to see Alvin and the Chipmunks, and my middle girl was near to tears when she had to go to “Donuts with Santa” for her little sisters sake – the shame…

    Then there are the questions, in front of their little sister- you know the sort, same sex relationships, maturbation, and what exactly was Mummy doing to Daddy last night? She has learned a heck of a lot that she shouldn’t have at her age! And if I don’t give her the answers, she will ask her teacher….I’ll be kicked off the PTA faster than you can say fundraiser.

  10. 23 March, 2010 / 3:41 pm

    Ahhh… my sister and I have an almost-eight-year gap. She was a pest. Now, though, we are becoming really close. So there’s hope!

    • 23 March, 2010 / 4:14 pm

      Glad to hear there may be light at the end of the tunnel :-)

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