Across the Ages: Having Kids Five Years Apart

Most of the time, I barely even think about the large age gap between my two daughters – it just is what it is. Earlier this week, though, I found myself in the office hooked up to a breast pump to ensure that Georgia would have enough food for the next day while simultaneously making change for a co-worker of mine who was buying Girl Scout cookies from Ruby. I felt distinctly spread too thin.

All of my friends who have more than one kid had their kids close together, intensifying the misery of the early days, no doubt, but also condensing it rather than dragging it out the way I have. For instance, a friend of mine had two in diapers at once, but because her son and daughter are just 14 months apart, she only had a total of three years of diapers. I will have four years of changing diapers behind me before I’m done – two with Ruby, two with Georgia, with no overlap. (Oh, God, am I being wildly optimistic here? They potty-train at 2, don’t they? See? I have forgotten so much that I have to re-learn it, another reason it’s inefficient to space kids so far apart.)

Also, kids closer in age have similar interests; if my kids were just 14 months apart, I could plop them both in front of “Yo Gabba Gabba” at least long enough to take a shower. But with five-and-a-half years separating them, Ruby wants to watch bratty kids saying bratty things on the Disney channel while Georgia wants to crawl around the living room cramming various choke-able objects in her mouth, and that combination doesn’t give me much down time at all.

Their schedules don’t mesh either. Ruby has ballet and parties and school and Scouts ­– and Georgia, whether it’s naptime or lunchtime or bedtime for her in an ideal baby world, is dragged along for the ride. Ruby has to make sacrifices, too. She wasn’t able to get as close as she wanted to at a lot of the parades because I had to keep the baby way back from the bands and the various objects being lobbed from floats, and we’ve had to leave a couple of school programs early because Georgia wouldn’t stop yelling.

Generally, though, there are a lot of good things about having one in diapers and one old enough to use the bathroom alone, flush, wash her hands and then neurotically slather them in hand sanitizer to “kill any extra germs.”

One of the very best things is watching Ruby take care of Georgia. Although it’s not like I’d ever let Ruby be in charge while I ran out to grab a drink or catch a show, I do frequently trust her to entertain the baby (safely ensconced in her Exersaucer) while I start a load of laundry or microwave a plate of chicken nuggets, and listening to Georgia laugh at Ruby’s antics warms every part of my heart. And the other day, Ruby accidentally slid off the sofa with Georgia on her lap and landed extra-hard on her elbow because she was trying to cushion Georgia from the fall. “I’m OK, Mommy,” she said when I rushed over. “I was just worried about Georgie. I would much rather me get hurt than her get hurt.” Scenes like that make me wonder how I could ever have even considered that my family would be complete without Georgia in it.

But Ruby is also a normal kid who gets jealous sometimes – and that’s better, too, because she can verbalize it instead of whatever kind of acting out she’d do if she were 2 and jealous (although how I’d distinguish that from normal 2-year-old asshole behavior, I’m not sure).

Overall, like I said, I mostly see their age spread as a simple fact: like anything, there are pros and cons. And as for selling a box of Thin Mints and a box of Samoas while hooked up to a breast pump – well, all moms have to multitask, and everyone knows cookies and milk are a natural combination!

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