Opinions and Child Spacing

Why do other parents feel the need to tell you how far you should space your children apart? Don’t get me wrong I’m all for having an opinion, but when people get pushy about it and think that only one way is the right way then I have a problem. I think the hardest thing for me in these situations is to stay calm and just let them say what they need to say while looking interested. I guess this is good practice for staying calm while handling a frustrated (and frustrating) toddler.

Having an almost 20 month old (how did he get so old so fast?!) when to have another child is something Josh and I have talked about. I’ve even googled it to get others opinions, and it pretty much boils down to about 3 choices: have your children close together, have them further apart (3-6 years or thereabouts), or have them really far apart (to me 7+ years is far apart, but for some it may be further).

So, down to the pros and cons. Many people find having them close together means that the children will be able to play together at a younger age and are closer. This was the opinion that was pushed onto me the other day. The cons to this though would be more than one child in diapers, tandem nursing or having to stop nursing the elder sooner than you would like, and, the scariest, two toddlers pushing boundaries. The pros and cons of having them slightly further apart are almost the opposite: you don’t have two (or three or four!) in diapers, you don’t have to tandem nurse (unless you want to you, more power to you!), and the elder child would be old enough to be out of the toddler stage. Many though think that this age spacing means that your kids can’t be as close. This is where I disagree. There is a lot that goes into how close your children are, such as: their personalities, your parenting techniques for fostering sibling love, and the family dynamic. The person that offered her opinion to me even said she is close to her brother, and they are 7 years apart (so why she would be so opinionated about having them close together I don’t know). I think it’s also good for older kids to learn to help care for their younger siblings. In other parts of the world it’s common for older kids to spend time caring and helping teach younger kids in mixed age classrooms. This sounds like a great learning experience for attitudes about empathy and compassion for both young and older.

Now my brother and I are 10 years apart, and we are not very close. I think this is because we are very different people. This may be in part because of the age gap, but I don’t think that’s all of it. If we weren’t siblings we wouldn’t be friends because we don’t have the same interests. I also don’t remember my parents fostering a good relationship between us. As a kid he teased me all the time and that was our relationship. From this I’m not surprised we aren’t that close, but it also makes me realize that I do want my children to have good relationships with each other.

For our family, it will be better if we space out our children about 3 or 4 years apart. Our munchkin is still nursing with no end in sight and I want a break before I nurse another. I also have no desire to tandem nurse. He also still likes to have ALL of our attention, and I’m not ready to take that from him. By spacing them out they will each get their time as the youngest and get that extra special attention of being the youngest. I think sometimes when that’s taken away prematurely there can be jealousy, which isn’t a good way to start a sibling relationship. We would also like him to be out of diapers before diapering another. Our tiny apartment also factored into the decision. We have no room for another yet (our family bed itself doesn’t have room for more either).

In short, don’t expect any baby announcements from us any time soon! And remember to be gentle when giving people opinions. Most eagerly want them, like me, but we also want to get a word in edgeways. And in the meantime check out this cutie!

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Surviving Toddler Tantrums…? Maybe…Someday

Articles claiming to hold all the secrets to handling, or dealing with, toddler tantrums abound. From ones telling parents to ignore them to ones telling parents to be sensitive to their child’s feelings. You could spend hours reading up on the topic, but at the end of the day do these articles really help us?

Well, yes, and no. I’ve read some really good articles about tantrums. Hell, I even have some printed out and plastered to the walls of our pocket-sized apartment. The problem arises when the tantrum hits. My mind goes blank. I forget anything I have ever read. I forget about those damn ugly pieces of paper with such helpful words smothering the walls. I forget everything.

Or I used to forget everything. Lately I have remembered one thing, stay calm. Now, just because I remember this doesn’t mean I’m always able to stay calm, but it’s a start, right? Before the age of Gollum vs. Smeagul I never thought about what I would do when Gollum gained control. I figured what to do would just come naturally. Naturally? Parental instincts? What are those? So I began to gobble up articles on tantrums: how to handle them, how to ignore other people when they happen in public, how to set your child up for success so they don’t have a tantrum, etc.

We are 19 months into parenting and only in the last couple months have I a noticed a difference in how I’m handling them. My ability to get calm and stay calm is growing (as is my patience, but that is a whole different can of worms). Does this mean that I can now focus on other aspects of dealing with tantrums? Do I dare try and add to my repertoire of tricks? Do I adhere more articles to the walls? My fear is that if I add to much to my tool belt at once it will fall down and I will have to slowly pick it all back up.

I think about how heavy my mommy tool belt is already, and then I think about how he looks when his emotions take over. “I will do anything to help him learn to manage his emotions!” my long lost instinct screams at me. I hope someday all of the tips I’ve tried to memorize will sink in and be second nature, but until then all I can do is keep learning to handle my emotions so he can handle his.