I have two daughters, almost 11 years apart.
One will be 13 in August, and my little one just turned two.
I had my first daughter at 16 years old, so while she has been an only child most of her life, she’s had the sort of strange life experience of growing up with me. People would always ask me when I was planning on having another and giving her a sibling.
Oh, people. Silly, well-meaning people.
(BTW, just as a side note and general rule: don’t be asking women questions like that unless you’re really close with them and you’re sure you won’t get throat punched.)
My answer was always that we already had enough on our plates and I wanted to get my stuff together for her, first.
She’s been along for the ride as I’ve evolved into adulthood. She’s had to bear with me as I’ve learned how to properly communicate with other human beings. She’s watched as I’ve figured out what my strengths and gifts are, and as I’ve learned how to love myself more fiercely and protect our boundaries. She’s loved and lost with me, rolled with big daunting changes, and literally rolled across the country with me when we decided to leave California behind and begin again in Indiana.
So when we got here, and I unexpectedly met my (now) husband, fell in that deep, starry-eyed love (the kind that makes you picture rocking-chair porches and grandbabies sitting at your feet listening to your love story) and I got pregnant super shortly after, I was almost irrationally afraid to tell her.
I was so joyful to be pregnant, and at a place in my life where I was ready for another little one and happier than I had ever been, but I also had this nagging feeling that I was committing an unforgivable act of betrayal to our top secret girl’s club that nobody had really been previously allowed in.
I felt like I was starting over, because I was, and that their age gap would just be too huge, like a grand canyon separating them from ever truly connecting as siblings.
Now that we’ve gone through it all and my little one is here with us, most of my burning fears about the quality of their sisterhood have been snuffed out.
I’ve found that instead of the age gap being a hindrance, there are some unexpected blessings that I am so grateful for:
My older daughter got to experience the growth and birth of her sister alongside me, and got to witness the joys and pitfalls of nursing
I don’t know why, but I never really got to witness a pregnant mama in all her magic when I was growing up. I didn’t see the relationship between a mama and a nursing baby, and I definitely did not see a fresh newborn just minutes after coming earthside. My first real experiences with those things were my own, with my first baby, and it was scary. I’m so grateful that my daughter got to witness these things up close and personal during her formative years.
There is so, so much unnecessary fear imbedded deeply within our culture surrounding the natural process of birth and the amazing capabilities of a woman’s body. There’s squeamishness and over-sexualization surrounding breastfeeding.
I love that my girl was around for the birth of her little sister. She wasn’t in the room, by choice (we had a home birth and she opted out of the action zone), but she was present for the buzz of baby magic in the air. She witnessed what it was like for beautiful souls like midwives, birth assistants and family to come together and hold space for a birthing woman. She was scared, because (in her words) I was “having a BABY. In a BATHROOM.” Hah. But she got to see that I could feel my way through it, that it wasn’t something to instantly fear, and that I could be in the otherworldly limbo of labor and birth in one minute, and in the next be holding her sister, talking, eating and being totally okay.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are some births that are dramatic and scary emergencies, but not all of them…not the way birth is generally portrayed for the Hollywood fear-based, dramatic effect.
After all that, she got to see how nursing didn’t come entirely naturally and intuitively, not on my part anyway. It was a working relationship that took practice, tears, and a lot of endurance. She saw the struggle in the beginning, how we got the hang of it and coasted for a year or so, and then the frustration of nursing a toddler who has no sense of boundaries and tries to combine nursing with crazy acrobatic skills (acro-nursing?). She got to see that my body and my breasts were sources of nourishment, comfort and life. Not something that are solely in existence for men to gawk at and objectify.
I don’t know about about you, but I think those little lessons are packed with huge value, especially for a young girl who is looking up to me for guidance, direction and empowerment in a world that benefits and makes money from her powerlessness.
My older girl is NOT a “little mommy” to my baby
This one worried me a lot, because when I was pregnant there were a lot of well-meaning people that told me the age gap would be great because my older one would be like another little mommy to her sister. Um. I was a little mommy, so that did not sit well with me. I just wanted her to have sisterhood, not motherhood. I worried that her becoming maternal was the only way they’d really connect.
My older girl is fiercely protective of her little sister, yes. But thankfully, they have a typical sibling relationship. They play together, throw stuff at each other, tattle, and when my older one is just done with the toddler energy she hides out in her room and ignores the pounding of rude little fists on her bedroom door… in true sibling fashion. 😉
…and I’m cool with that.
They counter-balance each other’s general trollish behavior
Just when my almost teen is slamming her door, needing me to get lost, her baby sister is climbing into my lap wanting to be loved on and held.
When I’m fighting back tears in my tired eyes from the frustration of being a toddler mom, my older one says something empathetic like, “You okay? She’s being kind of hard to deal with today…”
Omigod YES. She IS. Thank you. Thank you for noticing.
And when my older one finds my general quirkiness and random dance moves completely embarrassing and offensive and is searching for a rock to hide under, my toddler is right beside me faithfully trying to copy my sweet moves, because I’m still one of the coolest things in her world (second place to her handsome and hilarious daddy).
I appreciate the balance and I think the Universe has been totally kind to me in this way.
I can have actual conversations!
Mamas, you know the isolation and monotony of the baby years. You know how spending an entire day with just a baby can make you feel like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, with nothing but his sad ball to keep him from drifting into complete loneliness. Babies are sweet blessings and we’re lucky to be in their presence, but damn it sure helps to also be around someone who can string together an intelligent-ish sentence.
Just when I’m at my wits’ end with the isolation, my older girl comes down the stairs or hops in the car after school and says something profound like, “Hey. I’m so hungry,” and makes me feel like falling to my knees in utter gratitude for the conversational lottery I just won. 😉 Sweet, sweet relief.
I have backup in place for my emergency pee breaks
Ever been to Target with just your kids and sucked down a Starbucks coffee while meandering, only to find yourself needing to pee and having no decent, non-disgusting place for your little ones to wait for you? Sure there’s that weird strappy seat sometimes, or the risky business of letting them stand in the stall with you and hoping they touch nothing and don’t squat down and freak out the lady in the next stall…or worse, open the door on you.
It’s times like those that I’m so thankful for the arms of a big sister!
“Here, real quick! Hold my baby while I pee!”
The baby can be a total ice-breaker
When I’m getting the bitter cold-shoulder from my older girl, or when I’m feeling all kinds of frosty mom hostility and there’s an awkward and unsettling emotional chill creeping through our house, the baby does or says something hilarious and effectively warms our hearts and home back to life.
Overall, I love the 10 year age gap between these girls. I find more things to enjoy with each new phase they transition into.
I wouldn’t change the way their sisterhood is unfolding and I love the heartbeat and rhythm of our funky, unique sibling journey.
If you find yourself starting over and stressing out about a giant sibling age gap like I did, please, don’t be scurred! 😉
I promise you’ll find your own blessings sprinkled along every step of your beautiful journey.