Spacing between second and third child?
May 26, 2015 12:07 PM   Subscribe

We have two girls, currently 3.75 and 7. We are seriously considering a third, and hope to time his or her arrival around the time our younger is 5.5. How has a larger space between kids or sets of kids worked for you? Did the younger child or children feel a part of the older one's lives?

We are both 35, waiting about a year to try again because we both want to lose a bit of weight first.
posted by percor to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm 7 years younger than my sister. She was completely annoyed by me growing up, and I do mean completely. When she was 7 and 8 she was a little excited about me- after that, never again. She went to college when I entered middle school. We were never close. I'm positive she greatly resented my parents making her babysit. I'm 27 and she's 34 and we still aren't close.

So, just in my purely anecdotal experience, don't wait too much longer. Of course, others have better experiences and a lot depends on the individual family.
posted by quincunx at 12:21 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not a parent, but I am 7 years older than my brother and my mother always remarks how well things worked out. I loved helping with him. Because of the age gap, we barely fought at all, because we were never competing for the same thing. We are now 42 and 35 and very close.

On preview...I guess it all depends on the individual kids. :)
posted by kimberussell at 12:24 PM on May 26, 2015 [6 favorites]

Our two sons are 3 and 8, and they are close, and getting closer, as the younger one can play more actively and keep up with the older one. The little one gets on the bigger one's nerves sometimes, but I get the sense that that is in large part because he is 3, and that it won't necessarily continue to the same extent as he gets older.
posted by umbú at 12:26 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

My siblings are 3 and 6 years younger than me, and both my sister (youngest) and I (oldest) are both much closer with our middle brother than we are with each other. Anecdotal, of course, but I was never in the same school as my sister.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:32 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am a bit over five years older than my only sibling. It was often frustrating, especially because we had to share a room until I was around 14. We didn't really have anything in common - what do a 16 year old and an 11 year old have to talk about? It was only well after I went off to college that I began to be able to really relate to her.

At times I wished she was closer to my age so that I could relate to her better, but now I actually suspect that a larger age difference would also have been easier on us, because then I might have felt more maternal toward her.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:33 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Honestly I am sure there is no right answer, but in my opinion waiting 2 more years would be too big of a gap between #1 and #3 for me.
posted by saradarlin at 12:34 PM on May 26, 2015

My wife is surprisingly close with a sister who is 6 years younger. She happened to move back home for a bit after college and I think that's when they really learned to appreciate each other. They also have some similar interests and live in the same metro area, which has strengthened their relationship as adults. As kids, I think they had more of a bratty little sister and bossy big sister relationship, and maybe even their parents couldn't have predicted at the time that today they'd have such a good relationship today. So, not only are these things hard to predict now, but even well into their childhoods you won't know how it will all play out.
posted by Area Man at 12:44 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

My youngest sister and I are 7 years apart. We had a rocky time when we were younger, but I think that had more to do with family circumstances than anything. As adults, she went into the same semi-obscure field as me and we get along really, really well. There are 4.5 years between me and my other sister, and we've also been very close for the most part throughout our lives. My kids are 4.5 years apart too, and so far get along really, really well (they're 19 months and 6 years old).
posted by goggie at 12:46 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm 7 years older than my sister and we loved it (and so did our parents). It was like having two only children, because we each got some solo years. Since you'll have 3, though, I guess that wouldn't really be applicable. I liked that we were always at different developmental stages so we got individual attention. And when she was born I really liked helping out (though I do not want children because I totally remember how shitty babies can be).

However, things were pretty unfair, even in retrospect at age 32.I think I was the experimental kid, and she was their chance to make things right. For example, I had to get a job, buy my own car, clothes, etc. She did volunteer stuff, got to go to expensive summer camps, they gave her a car. We both turned out pretty well so I guess both ways work. Anyway, having a relatively large age gap seemed to work well for us!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 12:46 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

My sister and brother are 5 and 7 years older than me respectively. While I am very close with both of them today (and have been since I got to be late high school/college age), growing up, it was almost like being an only child in that the age gap between me and either of them was large enough to where we were never really part of each others peer group. They were more people who happened to share the same house and parents with me rather than playmates.

In contrast, I have stepsons who are only a year and a half apart. While they get on each others nerves frequently, I can definitely see that they have something that I lacked, in that they really are best friends and have been part of each others larger social circle since they were little.
posted by The Gooch at 12:48 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think the answer is going to be: it depends on the kids and circumstances.

My son is 13 and my daughter is 6. Sometimes she pesters him and he can get very impatient with her, but most of the time they have an affectionate and warm relationship.
posted by methroach at 12:50 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am 7 years older than my sibling and resented babysitting, found her perpetually annoying, and we had (and still have) nothing in common. We never went to the same school, never shared the same TV shows or books, never had friends in common, and had nothing much to talk about. I sometimes wish I'd had the option to be friends with her instead of having a constant tagalong. With such a difference in age, there is an inherent power differential and that doesn't really smooth out until you're adults.

But maybe my sibling and I would never have been friends and resented each other even if we'd been closer in age, I don't know (although I do know that my life would have been much better if my parents had hired a babysitter instead). I think you can't predict what they'll be like and it might not be worth worrying too much about. Perhaps your oldest will be protective and the youngest adoring, and they'll love playing together and be great friends as adults...who knows.
posted by epanalepsis at 12:56 PM on May 26, 2015

My younger sister and I are six years apart, with my brother in the middle between us. I couldn't stand her when we were growing up together, but after I moved out and she grew into a teenager with her own thoughts/opinions/etc we really started to get along. I think that sharing a room really created a lot of friction between us -- I can remember complaining to my first grade teacher that I just never got any sleep when the baby was around. I never babysat because my mom preferred to hire someone for that purpose. We're 21 and 27 now and I'd say she's one of my closest friends.
posted by possibilityleft at 1:04 PM on May 26, 2015

My youngest sister is 8 years younger than me, and 6 years younger than my next youngest sibling. Neither of us were really close with her until she was in her 20s, and we are still both more close with each other than with her. She was basically an only child for most of the parts of her childhood that she has memories of. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is for you to decide.
posted by decathecting at 1:09 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had two brothers, one 14 years older and one 14 months older. The older one adored me as a baby and young child, and it was wonderful having a big brother who was an adult when I was a teenager in the 60s. He was the perfect go-between for me and my parents. He may have convinced them he was on their side, but I always knew he was on mine. We were close all his life and I miss him every day.

My other brother, not so much. He always resented me because he wasn't done being the baby when I arrived. He made high school hell for me. I cut off all contact with him in my 20s. I don't miss him one tiny little bit.
posted by caryatid at 1:12 PM on May 26, 2015

Oh, I should say too that she has a lot of resentment about the fact that by the time she was old enough to enjoy or remember really exciting kid stuff (Disney World, Sesame Street on Ice, various family vacations, etc.), we were both teenagers or nearly teens and not interested in it. Plus we had already done a lot of that stuff before she was born. So frequently, the family will be, say, reminiscing about the time we all went horse back riding on vacation, and she'll ask, "was that before I was born, or just before I was old enough to remember?" And her bratty older siblings basically refused to do any of that little kid stuff with her, so the family mostly didn't do it when she was old enough, or she had to do it alone. Oh, also she spent a lot of her childhood sitting through our dance recitals and soccer games, and then by the time she was old enough to do those things, we were in college, so only my parents were there to cheer for her. I know she feels left out of a lot of fun family memories sometimes.
posted by decathecting at 1:13 PM on May 26, 2015

Eight years between my sister and me was not a good distance growing up, from my perspective. She thought I was the coolest thing ever but I was mostly annoyed or perplexed by her. (And by my friends' wanting to play with her and her toys!)

Once we were both in our twenties and I was long since moved out we got along much better and are fond of each other now, but still not particularly close.

Of course maybe that's all personalities, not age difference.
posted by Stacey at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2015

As you may have noticed by now in this thread, your kids may hate each other and I don’t' know if age gaps have much to do with it. Sibling differentiation is a real thing. My wife's siblings span 8 years and love each other deeply. Mine span over a dozen and we... don't. There are cliques and alliances even as we enter our 40's.
posted by French Fry at 1:35 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

My four all have 2 to 2.5 year gaps, so they're currently 13, 15, 17, and 19.5. It's worked really, really well. (Thankfully, IMO, because we homeschool - but it was like that before we started homeschooling.) They're all fairly close, and tend to enjoy hanging out together. Friendships overlap a bit, and so do activities, which is nice, because mine are VERY active in extracurriculars.

On the flip side, everyone I know IRL with ~4 year gaps tends to have problems with that set of siblings, even if there are other siblings younger or older.

More than 5-6 years, they're just sort of irrelevant to each other, and/or possibly having more of a caregiver/babysat relationship rather than a close siblingness.

(And yes, I'm inventing words today... but you get what I mean, right?)
posted by stormyteal at 1:40 PM on May 26, 2015

Realized I missed answering one of your questions. No, to a great extent, my sister did not feel like a big part of my life growing up. By the time she was starting to develop a really interesting personality and interests we could have talked about, I was heading into high school and had one foot out the door with my eye firmly on growing up and going to college. We did not have that much shared childhood experience outside of mealtime and vacations, though we had fun together at those times.

She is part of my life now for sure, although we live in different states, but I still sort of feel like we had entirely different childhoods despite sharing the same home for many years.
posted by Stacey at 1:41 PM on May 26, 2015

I have to agree with French Fry, it depends on your kids and your family. My kids are 6 years apart and have always been close. I love to see their relationship and how it's grown from "The only one who gets to hit my little brother is me!" after she beat up some kid on the playground, to "I went out in a blizzard to get him because he got stuck in a snowbank and didn't have a shovel."
posted by notaninja at 1:43 PM on May 26, 2015

I'm six years my youngest brother's senior, and have another brother 18 mos younger than me. I remember struggling to be patient with the littlest's constant why questions (and improbable rocketship schematics) but was also amused by them. The older brother and I each related to him in ways directed by interests and probably gender - I read, drew and talked with him, got him into cooking (well helping), and worried over his homework; bro senior roughhoused with him and taught him whatever kind of boy stuff, and took him out on neighborhood adventures, up until the older hit high school. I moved out by the time youngest was 12, and didn't get to know him that well again (I did try to recommend books and music, though) until I moved back to my home town (fairly recently). We get along well today (and I largely approve of his taste), and elder brother and he are very close as adults.

We did tease him a lot when we were all very young, though, and he's still a little peeved about that when he wants to think about it.

I think he did grow up mostly as an only (I think mostly for the good) with a second set of parents, ish. It's really only once we all hit adulthood that we developed more equitable relationships.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:26 PM on May 26, 2015

I have a sibling that is 6 years younger (though two others are in between us). We have never been close or really interacted too much 1:1 at all, until now that we are both in our twenties. We get along really well now, though!
posted by amaire at 4:12 PM on May 26, 2015

I offer a different perspective, but maybe it will help. My kids are 17, 18 and 19 right now. They overlap in so many ways it is not worth mentioning. However, the two same sex siblings are extremely competitive. Sometimes I think too much so. I would do it the same, but there are pitfalls to having them close together as well as far apart. So much will depend on the family, the parents and the siblings as well as just the way the household is run.
posted by AugustWest at 4:16 PM on May 26, 2015

My sibling's two girls were 8.5 and 5.5 when the third, a boy, was born. That boy is S-P-O-I-L-E-D and gets away with murder. He's their pet.
posted by mochapickle at 6:10 PM on May 26, 2015

Nthing personalities and interests matter just as much as age gap and gender. There are only 1.5 yrs between my brother and I. We have absolutely nothing in common but our parents and a few joint memories of growing up. As a result we have limited contact and have nothing to talk about when we do have contact. I have lived in a different country for almost 20 years now and and we barely keep in touch. We used to fight a lot as children. For all intents and purposes we are as 'not close' as as people can be, who do not actively fight with each.

And whilst I was clearly too close to my brother in age to be called on for babysitting I deeply resented being told that I was older and should know better at every opportunity.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:27 PM on May 26, 2015

To add an entirely diffent consieration: We had two kids pretty much the first time we tried, we waited a bit for a reasonable gap and ... nothing. As we found out, there is no guarantee you will get pregnant, and the longer you wait (especially in your mid-30s) the lower the likelihood. I'm not saying it would definitely have happened either way, but we do regret it.
posted by doozer_ex_machina at 2:39 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm the middle of 3. Older bro was 8 and I was 5 when younger bro was born (and parents were 43 and 40).

As a result of moving every two years, we spent a lot of my childhood time playing together. I apparently worshiped my older bro and vividly remember fighting with (but altlso always babysitting) tag-along baby bro. Our parents were busy and semi-checked-out by the time baby bro was past toddling, plus they were dealing, often badly, with their own mega-incompatibility. (It was very evident to us, even as children.)

Baby & older bro were semi close until older bro went to high school; baby & I were close until he was in maybe second grade, but then I got especially busy with high school -- basically was only home to sleep. Then we'd see each other simply by default on breaks after I went to university, then worked abroad.

During this whole time, of course, baby was having rocky middle /high school years. He bore the brunt of tired, stressed out, emotionally stunted, and MENOPAUSAL (I realized years later) parenting essentially as an only child, all while navigating teenage social bs and simultaneously, in my eyes, still being the "spoiled" youngest one who got everything for free and didn't have to work like we did, etc. I would be his occasional confidant during visits, but he never reached out or revealed much unless I asked how he was doing, repeatedly. It's kinda still that way (we're 25 and 30 now).

I guess what I'm saying is: childhood could be fighty, can be great, with or without parental intervention. But high school time could throw anyone for a loop, and that's generally the last time you'd all be living together. In the end, barring going back in time and forcing my parents into their own individual and couples' therapy, I wish they had kinda forced my teenaged older brother and me to spend one-on-one time together with baby bro. Like going to pick up groceries just him and us, or walking the dog together, or making just kids cook dinner -- like whatever forcible moments we had as busy/sullen teenagers to just have that physical presence together, and the emotional reassurance that comes with it. Precious Moments, for real.

You won't be able to control everything as parents, but even my dysfunctional ones would say, "I hope you [siblings] spend time together, because you only have yourselves to depend on when you're older." Unfortunately, then they'd both retreat to (separate) TVs, or go do things without ever talking to each other. They knew the theory but nothing, nothing at all about the practice.

And think about menopause.
posted by cluebucket at 6:04 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

My brother and are 5 years apart and got along well, partially because there was a big enough gap that fighting didn't make a whole lot of sense - we weren't playing with the same toys, and then he was too big to want to fight with a girl.

My parents appreciated not having two kids in college at the same time.
posted by ldthomps at 12:36 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

My sister is four years younger than me and we've never been close by any stretch of the imagination. A few times we had to share a bedroom and fought so much that in one case my mom moved me into her sewing room and I slept on the sofa bed. On the other hand I have an uncle who's 11 years older than me and though we don't often stay in touch we are pretty close when we're together. I don't think the age difference matters so much as does ability or desire to communicate or be close.
posted by bendy at 7:51 PM on May 27, 2015

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