You know, Gap has the cutest baby clothes. That's pretty much all Justin wore his first year of life and he was such a dapper little dude.
However today, I'm not talking about raising kids who wear Gap clothes.
I'm talking about kids with a gap in their age.
In my case, there's a 12 year age difference between my kids. When I first found out I was pregnant with Jules I was like, HOLY SHIT. After it sank in for an hour or two I started to think and wonder what kind of relationship Jules and Justin would have - will they be close? I'm 8 years older than my sister Sara and we're pretty close, but we're also both chicks (if you don't like the word chick, sorry...but I use it all the time, so just replace it with whatever word you like instead of chick). I was worried and rightly so, that my kids probably won't be very close and it will basically be like having two only children. Then we told Justin about the impending of arrival of his sister and his reaction "WHAT?!? But how's that even possible? Nooooooooo!!!" solidified that thought for me; to say he was less than thrilled would be an understatement. So I pretty much came to the conclusion that my kids will tolerate each other and I will get to have two, super cool and independent kids who are basically only children due to their age difference.
While I have the feeling we'll still end up some fairly independent and cool kids, I also have been very pleasantly surprised with just how close Jules and Justin are, how much she completely adores him and even more surprisingly, how much he loves her. It's been a slow-moving process and has taken a bit of intervention on our part, but I do think it's possible to have gap kids that are still fairly close and will have a close relationship. So without further ado, here are my tips so far...since we're only through the first year so far.
Take it slow.
This is Justin the day we brought Jules home from the hospital. He wasn't too happy and really didn't want anything to do with her. I think the only reason he was willing to hold her for a picture is because I begged him and he was still traumatized from me almost dying in the hospital (another story for another day, my friends). For the first few weeks, Justin was pretty much hands off. But me being who I am (type-A, control freak right hurrrrr), I slowly began introducing Jules and Justin to each other through our daily activities. It all started with me having to go pee like really bad "Justin, I need you to hold your sister so I can pee, it's an emergency!!" #noonemanipulateslikeamom. So he held her for me; he didn't look at her and didn't really want to do it, but I knew I could trust him to hold her. The next time he held her because I had to pee he decided she looked like Donald Trump. So of course I got a picture and we laughed about it and moved on. What he didn't realize at that time, is he was starting to connect to her.
Ease the older kid into doing stuff for and with the younger kid.
At that point, which was a couple of weeks into Jules' life, I started to incorporate her and Justin into daily activities together. We'd run errands, sometimes fun like getting ice cream and sometimes not so fun like getting groceries. We'd watch movies together and go for walks sometimes. While we'd do those things, I would usually ask Justin to do a favor for me that was Jules-related. "Hey, can you grab me a pacifier?" or "Jump into the backseat and sit with your sister so she stops crying". At this point I started to notice a trend where Jules was always starting adoringly at her brother, so I'd point it out. Justin would usually grunt or something as a reply, but I knew he was noticing it as well.
Justin still wasn't thrilled about Jules, but he was starting to warm up to her. Then my mom came to visit when Jules was 6 weeks old and since she's a genius like me, she knew she needed to do some meddling to get Justin involved. So she made him feed her, which is something I had not been able to do up until that point. And he did it and held her afterwards for about 30 minutes.
I think it was around this point that it really clicked with Justin that this was his little sister, she was helpless, and he could be her protector and biggest influencer.
So I started to introduce some more responsibilities that related to his sister. He'd run to grab me diapers or feed her for me sometimes so I could make food.
While Justin will complain about having chores and things like that, he really does thrive whenever he has more responsibilities.
That being said, there are some things that I don't think a 12 year old should have to do, with one of those things being changing diapers.
No diaper changes for Justin.
And I told him he wouldn't have to worry about that, which took a big weight off of his chest and I'm pretty sure made him more receptive to anything else we'd ask him to do. #noshit
Do stuff together.
Once Jules got to be a little older, we really started to get busy as a family. Justin had baseball so we'd spend hours at practice and games, usually with me wearing Jules and/or Jules rocking her NY Yankees dress to support her brother's team. We'd go to the beach, where both kids would fall asleep after splashing in the water for a bit, giving me and Jason a bit of a break #hallelujah
When Jules was 2 months old, we drove to Virginia to visit with some of Jason's family and see Washington D.C. This was a big test of how tolerant Justin could be since he spent most of the drive in the backseat with Jules, who hated being in her carseat at that time and cried a lot. But he handled it like a champ and actually did everything he could to soothe her, including feeding her and making faces at her. While we were in VA we made it a point to do things together as a family that Justin would like, including hitting up some museums in DC and going hiking.
We went to Miami for Mother's Day and it was on this trip that I really started to notice another thing that Jason and I were doing, seemingly naturally - we'd always try to give each kid some kind of attention. At not even 4 months old, Jules really just wanted the boob and diaper changes at that point; she didn't require much else. But we'd go stand or sit in the water while Jason and Justin would throw the football around. Then Jason and I would make a switch and he'd hold/play with Jules while I would play with Justin.
We've made it a point to continue this style of family-ing (I don't know what else to call it) since then. We do stuff together but we also try to do stuff one-on-one with each kid. Jason and Justin will go to the movies together since I don't like action movies, and then Justin and I will veg out and watch dumb youtube videos for awhile.
Make time to do things separately with each kid getting one-on-one time with each parent.
Around 6 months of age I really started to notice a change in Justin and Jules' relationship. She was starting to really interact with him, by smiling and cooing and giggling, and he was basking in that attention. Case in point:
We went to the beach with my parents in July and I managed to capture this beaut of a picture
And I might be too optimistic, but I have really high hopes that these two crazy kids of mine will continue to adore each other just as much in the future as they do now. Justin continues to grow in his role as her big brother, and he's always willing to help me out with her now (except with dirty diapers, those are still a no-go).
I still make it a point to keep them involved with each other's lives
Jules comes in with me to wake Justin up every morning and Justin comes with me to pick her up from daycare sometimes. I have seen Jules run while squealing with joy, into Justin's arms when she's sees him after being at daycare all day and Justin will sometimes take over with her care without being prompted, for example he loves pushing her in her stroller or making crazy sounds at her to make her belly laugh.
So if you have gap kids or it's been a loooooong time since you've had a child and find yourself pregnant, don't worry about your kids having a relationship. With a little bit of nudging and a lot of love from everyone, there's hope!
Do any of you have gap kids? Have you had success getting them to bond? Also, how about those baby Gap clothes? SO CUTE!!