14 Months Babies Close In Ageby Shannon G. Birch
I remember contemplating, as I rubbed my growing belly, the idyllic arrival of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. After all, what could be better than one pregnancy, one complete, immediate family, and two adorable children?
As it happens, and perhaps quite fortunately, fate didn't play into our naivety. We didn't have twins. We did, however, do the next best thing. We planned our pregnancies, so that our children would be approximately fourteen months apart in age. By chance, we had a boy and a girl.
We have often been asked by parents considering another child, "What is it like to have two so close in age?" Couples planning a family inevitably search for the arrangement that provides the least upheaval and the most benefits. While any age gap between siblings has its pros and cons, having two toddlers at once is a certainly a special experience!
With the arrival of the second child, we anticipated all of the small details. We prepared for sets of twos--two sets of cloth diapers, two sets of crib-sized bedding, two car seats. What we did not predict, were all of the other duplicate items. As my daughter developed a keen sense of her surroundings, she soon realized that her older brother had access to different items. Not to be outdone, she began to demonstrate her monkey-like abilities, so that we were obliged to locate a second booster seat for the table, another junior bed, and a second set of plastic utensils. Despite her young age and tiny stature, by the time my daughter was walking she had already developed a stubbornly competitive nature. If her brother could do it, she certainly could.
Although the younger child's seemingly faster development was interesting, more intriguing was the interaction of the two children together. My son, at just two and a half, is the ultimate feminist, as he has no comprehension of his sister being smaller and less able to do things. He counts on her to do her part, while they disassemble the cupboards, empty the toy chest or sneak things out of the fridge. If at first she is not capable of reaching the items on the kitchen counters, the demonstrates how to bring a chair about to accomplish the task. Little did I realize when we planned the second pregnancy that the two would become little conspirators in my house, joining forces to get into mischief.
But aside from the obvious chaos of having two toddlers under foot, there is the extraordinary process of children teaching children. As new parents soon realize, a child will imitate the behaviors of another child. It is a clever parent indeed who will attempt to use this knowledge to encourage positive development. It became apparent, during our initial efforts to train the older child that our home would in fact require two potties. Not surprisingly, when one child receives a sticker for using the potty, the other becomes determined to earn a sticker of their own. Because expecting one to be able to wait for the other is entirely unreasonable, the only viable solution is to find a second potty and train them concurrently!
Similarly, when one child is praised for putting their dishes into the sink, brushing their teeth, or putting their toys away, the other has sought that same praise by imitation. Language skills, memory and motor coordination improve as they grow and play side by side. From games of "head and shoulders, knees and toes", to learning the letters of the alphabet, they continuously draw on each other's repertoire. Whether it be calling to the same cartoon character on screen, or demanding to read the same book at nap time, each takes their cue from the other. They are capable of bringing out both the best and the worst of their sibling. As the parent present most of the time, I put as much effort as I can muster into discouraging the latter! As they illustrate their individuality by trading lunch items between them and showing a preference for different toys, they clearly perceive themselves as equals, and show little tolerance for allowances made otherwise.
Diapers, teething, and training "times two" can be exhausting. However, I've witnessed a great deal of learning and exploration due to the closeness in age. Despite some toy-induced tantrums and the occasional disinclination to play together, they tend to seek out each others company throughout the day.
With a fourteen month age gap there are sure to be some strong differences of opinion in the years to come. But for the years of toddlerhood, especially in the care of an at-home mommy, it would seem that they not only have a sibling in their lives, but a friend to bring along for the ride.S.G. Birch is a freelance writer and has been published at Living Now!, Self Help For Her, The Christian Science Monitor, and Our Family Magazine.
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