My husband and I both have 5-6 year age gaps between us and our younger siblings. And because we both grew up having tight-knit bonds with our siblings that have endured to this day, we knew we wanted to do things the same way when we became parents.
As such, we’re now the proud parents of two wild, smart, delicious, annoying, beautiful boys, 5 ¾ years apart.
I will admit that there are times I second-guessed our decision to have such a large age gap between our kids. It can be impossible at times to find activities that will please the sensibilities of both a 5-year-old and a 11-year-old. It feels like one kid is always getting dragged to activities that are either too boring or too sophisticated for the other. And sometimes it feels like they have very little in common—besides punching each other in the nose, of course.
And anyone who tells you that large age-gap kids don’t fight is dead wrong. Someone is always fighting over something around here, whether it’s that sacred item the little kid wasn’t supposed to play with, or how mean and bossy the big kid is being toward the little one.
Still, there are a million benefits I see to the large age-gap between my boys, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And while large age gaps are not for everyone, I want to tell anyone who is on the fence about it that there really are so many perks and pure delights. Here are a few:
1. The big kid learns about caretaking and setting a good example.
Granted, the big kid may moan and groan it, but by default, they have to take on some of the caretaking, and it’s ultimately good for them. You will see your big kid’s protective, parental side shine at a young age, and you’ll see them step up to the plate often, wanting to teach their younger sibling the ropes, and pass on any wisdom they’ve learned in their short (but very important!) life. It’s an adorably beautiful thing.
2. The little kid has someone to look up to and learn from.
Your little one always has a mini-teacher and wise sage by their side. They get all kinds of inside info about life, and also all the tricks of the trade when it comes to manipulating and coercing their parents into getting their way. In other words, you’ll have two smart-asses teaming up against you in no time.
3. The big kid gets to remain “a kid” even long after they’ve grown up.
My tween son wouldn’t be caught dead on a little kid playground, but when he’s with his little brother, it’s cool. He’ll swing on a swing, climb up a slide, and laugh with as much carefree glee as his little brother. And don’t tell him I said so, but sometimes he’ll even play a grueling game of Candy Land with his little brother, and actually enjoy it.
4. The little kid gets exposed to “big kid” stuff at an early age.
I suppose this isn’t always a good thing, especially once your big kid hits the teen years and starts being exposed to more grown-up culture. I remember being in the car with my husband (then boyfriend) while he played Eminem for his 8-year-old sister who just happens to be 15 years younger than him. Oops. But with some parental monitoring, it can be a fantastic thing for your little kid to be exposed to some of your older kid’s interests and thoughts at a young age. Thanks to his big brother, my little guy could play elaborate card games, operate an iPad, and even sound out words at a very early age, thanks in part to his desire to be just like his big brother.
5. The big kid gets to have (almost) as much influence on the little kid as the parents.
It can get dicey when your big kid wants to take on more of a parental role than is appropriate. I’m often having to tell my older son to stop disciplining his little brother as much as he does. “I’m the parent!” I’ll yell. But, in many ways, the big kid’s influence on the little kid—even when it’s powerful—can be a great thing.
6. The little kid always has someone to stand up for them.
The little kid has an ally from birth, and someone who will always stick up for them—at home, on the playground, anywhere they go. Mess with someone’s baby sibling and you will get pummeled (literally or figuratively) by their older sibling. No joke.
7. Both kids get a chance to feel like “only children.”
This was one of the main reasons I wanted to have a large age gap between my kids. My first son got to have me to himself for five years. And then, once he was more independent (and in school, too, which really helped), I got to concentrate on giving my all to his little brother. It doesn’t always feel like the perfect balance, and it can still feel like one of them is constantly getting short-changed, but doing the “baby stage” one kid at a time has been super awesome.
8. Eventually they aren’t the “big kid” or “the little kid,” but BFFs.
There were some years where my boys’ interests and maturity levels were so different I wondered if they would ever feel like true siblings. But by the time the little guy was 3 or 4, they not only felt like normal, loud, tumbling-all-over-each-other brothers, but they’d also formed a connection together that truly blew me away. They might not always show it, but they have a deep, adoring, tender love for each other. And it’s a bond that will last for the rest of their lives.