Please Mind The Gap

This morning, after three phantom poos, I heard a fourth “Muuuuuummm! I need a poo!” He must have sensed I was about to sit down on the loo myself. Twenty minutes later, he was still sat there, insisting he hadn’t quite finished whilst I danced around, my ‘post two kids’ bladder bulging.

“You sit right there on the potty, Mummy, like a good girl. We don’t want an accident.”

“Funnily enough, I don’t think my size 16 arse will fit on a potty designed for a two-year-old. I’d like to get in the shower soon as I need to drive you to nursery and your father to bloody work, before attempting to get myself and your disinterested brother breakfast. Just admit you’re finished! FFS!” I didn’t actually say that. I couldn’t speak as I was concentrating so hard on not wetting myself. Jesus, why didn’t I do my pelvic floor exercises?!

Meanwhile, downstairs, I could hear the six-month-old with separation anxiety, screaming, and the 35-year-old muttering something obscene, not really under his breath, as he tried to get ready for work.

Obviously, we were late. Always fucking late. We have yet to figure out how, in 5 months’ time, I will manage to leave the house at 6.15am to get to work, leaving Rob alone to get both kids, who will be aged one and three, to nursery for 8am. I can’t think further than the end of an episode of Bing Bunny these days, let alone to next year, therefore, I’m going to hope that little bubble of panic away floats until it requires immediate attention.

When my friend announced that she was pregnant with her second child on Sunday, I blurted out ,without thinking, “Congratulations! Jesus! 18 months between them! You are brave!” Not one of my most supportive of comments, admittedly, but I am thrilled for them. I just also have a great deal of sympathy empathy for the journey they are about to embark upon.

Managing a toddler and a baby feels impossible at times. My house is a mess. My hair is a mess. My head is a mess. Just having one baby can be challenging enough. Exhibit A; Lunch. My lunch today involved shoving a whole boiled egg in my mouth so that I could pick my wailing six-month-old up and stop him crying. An over cooked boiled egg at that, as I had already spent half an hour trying to soothe him, totally forgetting that I had started to cook in the first place.  I have absolutely no fucking idea what was wrong with him. (Oh, and how the hell does anyone parent without a dummy?! JUST TAKE THE BLOODY DUMMY JOE!!)

There are two years, two months and two weeks between my boys. On a Wednesday and a Saturday, when they are both home with me and Rob is at work (James is in nursery four days. Bad mum), I am on repeat; “Get down. Calm down. Put that down. Don’t step on the baby’s head. Gentle! Gentle! Don’t throw that! Stop squeezing your brother’s nipples!” As soon as Rob walks through the door, I do the “dump and run.” I am officially DONE. Those tiny maniacs are all yours, darling! Trying to stimulate a hyperactive and highly intelligent two-year-old whilst looking after a six-month-old who can’t quite sit up unaided or crawl but wants to do both is like patting your head, rubbing your tummy, licking your elbow and trying to sing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” backwards. I aim to keep both happy somehow because if one has a meltdown, the other is guaranteed to chip in with some slightly louder, more shrill crying. Why? Just because the other one is crying and why the hell not! I haven’t slept since 2013 (Ok, we had three weeks in September, but the introduction of potty training set us back almost as far as new born days) My day revolves around the bodily functions of two small ginger dictators. My own bodily functions are only permitted during breaks sanctioned by the mini fascists and are, quite often, supervised by at least one of them.

On days where I am feeling particularly on the brink of insanity, I do wonder if my over excited ovaries should have just chilled their eggs for another couple of years, to give me a chance to get my breath back from having baby number 1. My niece is 11 and an only child. When my brother asks me to have her during holidays, I am thrilled. She’s prime age to help. She manages to coax my uncooperative two-year-old into the bath. She plays with the baby whilst I make dinner. She can give the baby a bottle. Hell, never mind a three or four-year age gap, nine seems to be optimum. However, there does seem a downside to such a large age gap.

Baby/toddler days are hard. You are chained to your children. As they get older, they develop their own lives and you gain some independence from them. My niece has a party every weekend. She does ballet, tap, modern, street dance, piano, yoga… I’m knackered just speaking to her about her after school activities. She sleeps for a minimum of eight hours a night. She wipes her own arse. I’m not sure I could face starting afresh with a new baby, all sleepless nights and endless nappies, when I had a child that was almost resembling a functioning human being. My mum, after having me and my brother 16 months apart, assures me that when the boys get to school age, I will be so glad I had them close and got the hard(er) part out of the way.

I always wanted my children to be close. Despite his best efforts to the contra, my brother and I are close. We speak every day. We like the same music, have similar interests. We have a sense of humour all of our own. That’s not to say we never argued. We did. A lot. As kids, we would quite regularly try and beat the living daylights out of each other and we probably did it until we were more than old enough to know better. I recall being well into secondary school, about 14 or 15, when an argument broke out over control of the remote. We rolled about the entire house, kicking and punching and Chinese burning each other. I went to kick him at the bottom of the stairs, when the little fucker rolled like a ninja and I whacked my shin against the stair. WWAAAAAAHHHH! Bloody agony. We were laughing ten minutes later. In the days when kids tv was only on for two hours, Monday to Friday, quite often a good scrap was the entertainment. That was until my brother went to bed on the eve of his 15th birthday, a small chubby boy with a squeaky voice, and woke the following morning, a fully-grown muscle man of 6ft 1ins. It suddenly wasn’t as much fun, trying to beat up someone almost a foot taller than you. We continued to bicker. We still do. But it was always just us two, growing up. We didn’t see much of our extended family and so, we always looked after each other. I would like to think we still kind of do, even though he’s a tit.

On the flipside, my husband and his twin sister are six years younger than their brother. The boys aren’t close at all. Not in a bad feeling type of way. They are just different men with different lives. We see him during family occasions, have a laugh. The twins are probably closer, despite the fact Emma lives in Australia. When the twins were born, Paul didn’t take it very well and suddenly “lost” the use of his legs, in a case of extreme sibling rivalry attention seeking. As they grew up, it was very much Paul doing his own thing and Rob and Emma doing theirs, together. Rob hardly remembers Paul being around. Instead, his memories are of going to Bernie Inns with Emma and his grandparents. He doesn’t know where Paul was. Probably with his friends. I should point out at this stage that Rob has a patchy memory at best so there is a chance that Paul has been erased from a couple of memories. However, what 16-year-old lad wants to be knocking about with his 10-year-old brother and sister? If anything, it would be weird if he had spent his teens playing with two young kids. The gap just widened over the years, especially once work and kids and just general life got in the way.

Now, I’m not na├»ve enough to think that a smaller age gap guarantees lifelong friendship but I would like my boys to have common memories, in the way that my brother and I recall singing along to Queen’s Greatest Hits on our way to Ormskirk baths and eating pickled onion Space Raiders. Or accidentally making chocolate chicken soup (don’t ask), painting clay ninja turtles and eating chocolate and marshmallow pizzas at our dad’s flat (healthy diet, right there). Or mum putting nit lotion on us as we sat in front of the fire watching ‘Neighbours’. Ahhh, who doesn’t love a good memory of your mother combing highly flammable pesticides through your hair in front of a roaring gas fire whilst watching lame Australian soaps? (Trying to maim us much, Mum?)

A further factor in having kids close is my age. I was 31 when I had James and 33 when I had Joe. By today’s standards, I am hardly old, but the thought of having a large gap, taking baby days into my 40s, is about as appealing as a Donald Trump in nothing but a thong. I’m exhausted now. I couldn’t take it another ten years down the line!

My mum was 20 when I was born and my dad was 30. As a kid, my dad always seemed so ancient (sorry dad) and yet my mum didn’t. This was probably even more evident when my mum married my stepdad, who is 7 years her junior (this is where the family set up gets complicated, my dad married a woman four years older than him… let’s just leave it all there) I never wanted to be an older mum but my chaotic 20s would not have lent themselves well to motherhood. I wanted to be a young, fun mum. I would hate for my kids to think I was an old fuddy duddy. I am an old fuddy duddy but I don’t want them to think that!!

There are pros and cons to having any age gap. Kids can be close whether 12months or 12 years apart. Two year olds can, to some degree, be involved in bringing up a baby, as can 10 year olds. And toddlers are just, if not more, capable of being jealous of a new sibling as teens. But I am glad I had mine close. Next year, when I go back to work, double nursery fees will cripple us. But soon enough it will end and maybe we can get a holiday again. Hopefully, I’ll start sleeping soon and maybe one day, in the next five years, I may even get to have a wee alone and in peace (We so need a downstairs loo) Perhaps having such intense baby/toddler days means I won’t enjoy my two as much as a parent who has let the dust settle in between babies. But half the fun is seeing them grow up together and giggling at the same ridiculous things (such Twirlywoos) I don’t regret having my two close together and hopefully my friends wont either. It is wonderful, even if you do need chocolate, gin and a separate toilet to get through.

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