The kids I am raising are nearly 5 years apart. Not the age span we’d intended. But one I’ve adjusted to.
I put off having kids until my mid-30’s. Truthfully, I was always a little on the fence about it. I realized at some point that I was holding on to the belief that my status as a birthmother actually indicated that I’d be poor mother material. And I probably would have been had I chosen to parent as a teenager. Sure, I know that some people rise to the occasion and me being the product of a “when-the-going-gets-tough-the-tough-get-going” upbringing probably had a good shot at it. But I didn’t think another person’s life was something that I should take that chance with.
By the time Sassy Lassy came along I was in my mid-30’s. Afterward we struggled to grow our family. And after being told it is was “unlikely” by one of the top-ranked fertility docs in the state we’d accepted that and moved on. Except then I got pregnant again and we went on to have Mr. Mister.
At some point while I was pregnant, Sassy Lassy had a full-blown crying-her-little-heart-out tantrum that I was going to have another baby. She’d grown quite fond of her status as an only. And to be honest? She’s never been very maternal. So, I worried about how their relationship would go. Would she resent him? Would the 5-year-age gap be insurmountable? Would they ever be friends? How much could I expect her to help when this brother was certainly something she hadn’t asked for?
And there is a lot of debate how much older siblings should be expected to care for their younger sibs on the interwebs and in my local mom community.
I actually think I’ve been on both sides of the fence.
At first, I didn’t foist much responsibility on Sassy Lassy. I mean, she wasn’t even quite 5 and he was an infant. And, as I pointed out earlier, she certainly didn’t ASK for another sibling. She’s stopped asking for that about the time she was 4. But as her own growing self-confidence at her place in the world has blossomed she has willingly stepped up to take on more responsibility. At first it started with her offering to “babysit” if I wanted to run to the corner store for donuts while JJ was still sleeping on Saturday mornings. But in recent months I can see how their relationship is changing and how she is actually enjoying being the source of amusement, comfort and education to her little brother.
But I also occasionally pay her to watch him. She is always on the lookout to earn some scratch. And occasionally I would like to spend 10 minutes in the shower without an interruption. And there are many people that think that’s a strange notion because older sibs are supposed to take care of the younger ones, right?
But here is my rationale: While I love seeing those moments of genuine interest on her part for her brother’s welfare why wouldn’t I pay her for something I would pay someone else to do? Just because she is nearby and available shouldn’t mean that she has to do it by default. Instead, I’d rather teach her that the love and care and watchfulness that she so willingly gives is valuable and worth something. And while one of my jobs is to help keep Mr. Mister safe and contained another one of my jobs is to teach Sassy Lassy about responsibility. And a quarter here and there does a lovely job of that. Not to mention that an uninterrupted shower for me is priceless.