Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Number

What would you consider to be the ideal age between siblings?

What is the ideal age?

What is the ideal age? (disclaimer – these are not my kids, therefore their age is not ideal)

My kids are four years apart.  I somewhat planned this difference in their age.  I say ‘somewhat’ because who really knows what will happen, and when.  See the Maury Show for more on that.

My rationale boiled down to not wanting two kids in college at the same time.  So, I figured I would have them four years apart so when one is leaving college the other is just entering.  Yes, I plan well in advance on many things and take various factors into consideration.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.  When we were planning our wedding, my wife wanted a January date.  Since I’m a big football fan, and back in those days the Super Bowl was held in late January, I gently offered another date (gently being the key word).  We ended up moving the date more toward the middle of January where I thought it would be ‘safe’ for my viewing plans.  I consider this move a fail.  Why?  Because every year in the middle of January, PLAYOFF football is in full swing.  Planning our anniversary around football playoffs can be…problematic.  She is a football fan too, so we somehow work it out.

Back to the issue at hand.  I chose a four year buffer between kids and here is what I found:

The good:

  • College plan – I won’t have two kids in at the same time.
  • Assistance from the older child with the younger child – Even from an early age, the older child can help out.  They can help change diapers, help with homework, help keep them occupied during the game.  You know, things like that.
  • Play time – Having a sibling, regardless of age difference, is always a good thing.  You have someone to hang out with, play games, torment (for all those older brothers – personal experience), etc.  You have that life long bond between siblings and you’ll always remember the times where you sat down and just played together.
  • Hand-me-downs – It’s easier to recycle clothes to the younger child with a bigger age difference.  If they are closer in age, you pretty much buy two of everything, almost like twins.  Having the larger gap allows one to grow out of clothes and the other to just be coming into them.  If you time this right and REALLY plan ahead, you can even put a seasonal angle on it.  There have been times where the winter clothes aren’t quite perfect for the hand-me down move…damn, if we had only had the kid in the winter!  This approach may be a little too much to ask for though.
  • Homework – It’s definitely nice having a discrepancy in the depth of topics for which you have to help.  I come home from a long day at work and usually have to help with homework.  I would hate to handle kids doing Advanced Geometry and Chemistry at the same time.  It’s nice having one extreme subject, then jumping over to 5 problems dealing with simple addition.
  • Mentoring – Related to the oldest child helping the youngest, you’ll find the youngest always looking up to the older child.  I remember following my older brother around to the point he wanted to punch me.  I see my youngest always looking up to her big sister and wanting to do the things she does.  With a closer age, I think the two kids have more of a peer relationship.

 The bad:

  • College plan – I’ll be extending the payments over a longer period of time.  I’m now looking at paying for college for 8 straight years (or more) – yikes.
  • Assistance from the older child with the younger child – With four years difference, the oldest child often doesn’t want to be around the youngest, let alone help her – she has her moments where she’ll help, but she’s a teen, what can you really expect, right?
  • Play time – Often the older child will have different interests when playing and they don’t align with the youngest.  The oldest may want to play with their iPhone while the youngest wants to play with dolls.  This can cause issues and have the youngest frantically looking for a playmate (“Dadddddy!”)
  • Hand-me-downs – With four years difference, there is always a risk of something being out of style by the time they can wear it.  Please don’t make your child wear ridiculous clothes just because they are still in good shape.   Self esteem is worth a new pair of pants (I should trademark that).
  • Parties – I usually allow the non-birthday girl to have a couple of her friends over since they don’t really have the same interests as the birthday girls friends.  This goes both ways.  If the oldest has her teen friends over, the youngest may not want to hang out with them.  The opposite is also true for when the youngest has friends over.
  • School – With a four year difference, it was kind of cool having your kids at the same elementary school.  But, as they move up in grades, that no longer happens.  When my youngest gets to middle, the oldest is in high school.  When the youngest finally gets to high school, the oldest is gone to college.  This may or may not be a good thing from the kid’s viewpoint.

While there may appear to be quite a few bad items listed, I don’t think their weight equates to an overall negative.  I think the sweet spot for sibling age difference lands in the 2-4 year range.  One year apart just seems too close and you might as well have twins. Greater than 5 years is really starting to push it to the point where the kids just won’t have the same interests and may not form as tight of a sibling bond.

What do you think about this?  What have been your findings with your kids?  Do you agree with my ideal age range of 2-4 years between siblings?   Let me know in the comments or hop over to the Crazy Dad Life facebook page and throw down some of your thoughts.

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