After months of watching me chase down my 2-year-old son, it's started become a running (pun originally unintended, but now I'm keeping it) joke in my neighborhood that we all expect him to bring home a gold medal in sprinting some day. It's nice to not have to worry about going to the gym, but it's also frightening that he just bolts without any awareness of his surroundings.
Except when my 10-year-old stepdaughter is around, that is. One of the awesome things about having kids that are far apart in age is that your older kid can help you out when your younger kid is being more than a handful. He's often way more willing to listen to her the first time she says something than when an adult tells him the same thing, too, which is simultaneously really sweet (that he loves and admires her so much) and infuriating (I literally made you, Kid! I can halfway see you ignoring these other people, but not me!).
Now, not all kids are typically-developing, so the following things don't necessarily apply to all families. But for those of us it does apply to, it's a pretty sweet set-up. Obviously, there are advantages and drawbacks to every kind of family and different ways of spacing kids (or having an only child). But while I didn't always picture my family including kids who were spaced out in age, now that I've actually experienced it I wouldn't have it any other way. Having kids who are far apart in age is amazing, because:
You Have A Helper...
It's fun, but occasionally overwhelming to care for a young child. Older kids often find younger kids fascinating, though, and enjoy getting to help out with things like dressing them, feeding them, and playing with them. Clutch.
...And Your Older Child Gets A Great Opportunity To Learn Empathy And Responsibility
I'm always amazed and touched by how loving my stepdaughter is with her little brother. She's constantly thinking about how he sees things, so she can entertain him and help keep him safe. Caring for a younger sibling is one of the best ways to learn how to look out for others.
Your Younger Child Has Someone To Look Up To...
My son thinks his big sister is the coolest. He follows her around everywhere and tries to do everything she does.
...While Your Older Child Gets A Die-Hard Fan
Even if she grows up to be the most famous and admired leader or celebrity in the world (and she very well might), I don't think my stepdaughter will ever find anyone who's as impressed with her as her little brother. Having a little sib who's quite a bit younger than you means having a person who spends a significant chunk of their life thinking you are the most capable, badass person in the world.
Your Younger Kid Will Often Listen To Their Older Sibling Way More Than They’ll Listen To You...
I can see how this can be a problem sometimes, as my son learned how to resist bedtime from watching a seasoned pro. Still, if your older kid is mostly well-behaved, they can be hugely helpful in helping your younger kid get it together at times when they couldn't care less what you have to say.
...Which Makes Your Older Child Feel Really Cool And Powerful
“Wait, I can get the little one to do things my parents can't? I am mighty beyond measure!”
Your Youngest May Learn Things Faster…
Kids with older siblings often learn to move and achieve lots of other milestones more quickly, thanks to the example of their older siblings who are old enough to be capable of a lot more than their little siblings, but young enough that what they do seems possible for their little siblings to try.
...While Your Oldest May Learn Things More Deeply
Breaking down skills and knowledge you might otherwise take for granted is a great way to develop a deeper understanding of them. Older siblings get tons of opportunities to do that, which might partially explain why many studies show first born kids are more successful in school and life.
It’s Way Easier To Decide Who Is Thing 1 And Who Is Thing 2
Our kids love their Thing 1 & Thing 2 souvenirs from the Cat in the Hat. I'm a twin, so gifts like that would have been impossible for my parents ("I'm Thing 2?! What does that mean?!"). There would definitely have been arguing and tears if they'd even tried it. Not so hard for me and my partner.
You Get A Bit Of A Break Between Some Of The Hardest Parts Of Parenting
I know there are some advantages to having kids close together, too, but for my money it's pretty clutch to not have to keep a baby and a toddler alive at the same time.
It’s Easier To Help An Older Child Adjust To Having A New/Younger Sibling
It can be hard for a toddler to understand that having a baby around doesn't make them less loved, because to them the attention they're used to getting is how they perceive love. Though it's a challenge to adjust to a new family dynamic at any age, bigger kids are way better able to understand the situation, and have more coping skills and social opportunities to deal with their emotions about it.
Their whole “being less likely to wail and throwing temper tantrums” thing is pretty awesome, too.
You Probably Won’t Ever Have To Figure Out How To Simultaneously Chase Very Young Children Who Are Running In Opposite Directions
It’s nice when at least when one of your children is old enough to understand the potential consequences of running out of your sight and/or into the street. I'm a twin, so my mom didn't have that benefit. I still can't figure out how she managed it, but I'm glad she did.