So word is "you started all over." At least that's what people tell you when they find out you're having another baby years after having had your first. After a while you start to beat them to it.
You can tell when it's coming. It's the look they give you when they glance at your belly and then at the kid standing beside you, big enough to ride in the front seat (although you still insist they sit in the back, for safety reasons obviously).
And for awhile there, you worried if you were actually embarking on a nearly impossible task. It was as if you were just about to win Monopoly and suddenly: "Do not pass go ... " How can you possibly win at life now?
But then you realized that you're already winning, that you aren't simply starting all over. You are instead prolonging the ride—a ride that has been so profound and such an amazing experience that the sheer joy and excitement outweigh the sudden twists and turns and the nervous feeling you get in your stomach.
You're not just gearing up for another round of sleep deprivation and diaper changes. You've just extended your membership to view life through the eyes of a child, allowing you to bear witness to the magic of childhood a little longer. Seeing the magic through the eyes of their little brother or sister is magic for older siblings, too. And perhaps this time, knowing all you learned the first time around, you'll feel compelled to savor it, to give yourself a break and lighten up a little so that you can partake in as much as you can—before you blink and the ride has indeed come to an end.
When you see your big kid loving on your little kid and see that love reciprocated as they grow, you'll have no doubt in your mind that they were destined to be, that those two paths crossed at the most perfect time. And as you watch your big kid move further from your grasp, you'll be especially grateful for the chance to use the lessons that they've taught you. You'll be grateful that there's another human being that can bear witness to the amazing human you're raising. And you'll be grateful for the second helping of toddler kisses and cuddles.
There are a few things that you wouldn't know about having children with a large age gap unless you've experienced it. Most of us mamas who have done it, who have navigated toddlerhood and the start of the tween years simultaneously, or watched our big cradle our little can tell you: We wouldn't change a thing.
1. We know we've got the best of both worlds.
We get to belt out Dinsey classics and Taylor Swift. We have company for when we want to ride a roller coaster or if we'd like to take it easy and ride the kiddie ride. We get to have insightful conversations with our big kids and animated ones with our littles.
2. We know we won't be in the trenches forever.
We've made it to the other side before.
Even in the midst of sleep deprivation and diaper blowouts we manage to fair out OK. Sure, we might have our days where we just can't deal, but the truth is we've made it to the other side before. We know that this is just a small moment in time and that "this too shall pass." We also know we'll miss "this" like crazy when it does, so we make the most of it.
3. We're aware that we really don't need all that stuff for a tiny human.
Unless you go all out because you're pretty sure you're closing up shop after this next baby; you already know that your baby will survive with or without the wipe warmer, that your toddler and preschool kid doesn't need a ton of toys and that hand-me-downs sort of rule.
4. We've learned that it's OK to lean on our people.
We tried the super mom thing and ever so often we find ourselves trying it again. But most times we realize one of the best things we can do for our kids and ourselves is to lean on our loved ones. We've gotten a lot of practice at this. We realize that no one is going to do things quite the way we do, but we also know we're fortunate to have people in our lives who are willing to try (or at least do them the best they can).
5. We seasoned mamas don't know everything, but let's be honest, this isn't our first rodeo.
We do know a thing or two when it comes to children, particularly our children. There are some lessons that only come with time. Another thing that comes with time? Confidence. By this time we've learned to trust ourselves and our ability to do this mom thing.
6. We know our strengths.
Rather than beating ourselves up over trying to be the mom we aren't, we're able to focus on being the mom we already are.
We've had some time to get an idea of where our strengths lie in this mom life. We've had time to figure out whether hosting parties fills our tank or depletes it. We know if baking 10 dozen cookies for a fundraiser is going to release our inner Martha Stewart or if it's in everyone's best interest for us to swing by Trader Joe's and pick up some ready-made sea salt brownies. We know if we like to volunteer in the classroom or if we'd rather help out behind the scenes. Rather than beating ourselves up over trying to be the mom we aren't, we're able to focus on being the mom we already are.
7. We know that balance sounds nice but it isn't always realistic.
I know some of us look like we've got it all together, at least on Instagram. And then there's me. I clean up nicely but some (most) days it looks like I got my kids ready, then ran out of time when it came to getting myself ready. I probably did. We know that something will be lacking at some point in our day because we simply cannot do all the things, not all at once anyway. This is where grace comes in—and chocolate.
8. We aren't going to neglect our older kids.
Just because a cute little one arrived on the scene doesn't mean we don't still value our relationship with our firstborn. We've had a lot of time to build that relationship and it's still as valuable as ever. If anything, having another brings us even closer to our big kids. It forces us to carve out one-on-one time and to trust in our bigs a little bit more; it prompts us to reminisce and share stories of the days when they were that small.
9. We know that the love shared between two siblings is powerful.
No matter how many years separate them, that love is what keeps them close. This is where we get to see some of the values and lessons we've taught our older children come forth, too. Seeing your big kid being loving and attentive when it comes to their smaller sibling and seeing your little marvel at their older sibling will make you so happy that you got this life and these kids.
10. We know that we're going to screw up.
Nowadays we are spending less time focusing on our wrongs and more time making them right.
We've messed up before. We've beaten ourselves up about it, too. And the truth is we will mess up again. But we're finally realizing that mistakes are inevitable and that thankfully His mercies are new every morning. We've learned that sometimes we're going to have to apologize to our spouse, to our kid, even to ourselves. We may shed some tears but we continue to move forward as best we can. Nowadays we are spending less time focusing on our wrongs and more time making them right.
11. We've learned that this is hard.
No matter what stage, motherhood can be hard, but believe us when we tell you that we can do hard things.
12. We know you think we're crazy for "starting all over."
And we also know people thought you were crazy for stopping at one kid or having several kids close together. And yet, just like you, we wouldn't have it any other way. Because from the moment our family grew, we were convinced that this was exactly how it was supposed to be.