Ask BBB

Q:Does having an age gap between having two kids matter? My husband and I have a 7-year-old and though we aren’t ready for a second kid yet, we are hoping to expand our family down the line. My brother and I are 12 years apart, so I don’t mind waiting, but other family members are being judgmental.

When I tell people that my husband and I have triplets, their reaction is usually something like, “Oh, my gosh, how on earth did you do that?” And my answer is always the same: “We just did it. What choice did we have?”

Having children who are two and 10 minutes apart wasn’t easy and it wasn’t a choice. We played with the cards we were dealt.

In this day, 42 years later in the age of advanced medical technologies, parents do have a choice. And sometimes having a choice makes it difficult. Too much thinking!

I begin by asking you to think about how it was for you with a brother who is 12 years apart from you.

What are your memories of your family life? How was it for your parents? Are your brother’s memories the same as yours?

Likely your time at home with your sibling wasn’t very long. Likely there were many times when you felt like you were raised as single child. Was that good for you?

I am sure there were negatives and positives.

You ask, “Does the age space between siblings matter?” If you mean will you love each of your kids to the moon regardless of their age difference, the answer is yes, you sure will. If you mean will it affect your family life? The answer is of course it will!

Let me just say that while having one child can be challenging, two kids are a whole lot more than one and that’s just for starters. But the age spread between children matters because of what that means for you—your energy capacity, your patience, your home life, your daily schedules, your family activities, the demands on you and your life together as a family.

There are lots of different kinds of needs to be met. With spread apart kids, being out for the day and having to rush home for the baby’s nap can be a real show stopper. When both kids need a rest, it isn’t such a problem.

On the other hand, two kids who are spaced closely in age can take a physical toll on the parents, too. Two sets of diapers, two kids who awaken at night, two soccer games on a Saturday morning, etc …

Negatives and positives.

There are people who believe that having two children close in age enables you to get through the challenges of having young children and be done with it. All of the work that accompanies having young children is condensed into one period of time.

Those same people might say that having a wide age spread enables you to focus more fully on each child and his needs and isn’t as exhausting.

There are those who believe that life is easier when one child is older and can be helpful with the younger one. Older children can understand the neediness of the younger child without falling apart.

But then, it can be easier on the parents with more closely aged kids as they play together more easily and regularly, having more shared interests and abilities. Their lives are certainly more intertwined. Family life is more unified.

If you are asking does it matter with regard to the siblings’ relationship, that is yet another story. Interestingly, research shows that the closer in age children are, the more they will fight when they are young. But that doesn’t mean that aren’t close or they won’t be close when they get older. Siblings fight!

There are people who believe that their children will have a closer relationship if they are closer in age. My experience in the field, however, points to a different reality. When children grow up in a family that is close, they are more likely to be close siblings—warm feelings carry over.

There are many ways we encourage close sibling relationships throughout their growing years, ways that have nothing to do with the age difference. But that is for a different column. You can find information on encouraging close sibling relationships in my book, “Just Tell Me What to Say.”

For every answer to your question, there is someone who will disagree. That is because there is no single absolute best space between siblings.

There is something to be said for close spacing; there is something to be said for having your children farther apart. Positives and negatives. It only depends upon you and your family.

By the way, the one thing I can advise for sure is to disregard what your relatives say. This is YOUR life. Hear them, thank them, and do what is right for you and your family.

Looking back on my life with triplets, hard as it was, I wouldn’t have had it any other way!

BBB is a child development and behavior specialist in Pacific Palisades. She can be reached through her website, betsybrownbraun.com.