When Caleb was born, Sophie was 11 and babies were just about the best thing ever. Nothing she could do to help was never too much trouble. The age gap hadn’t really crossed my mind when I fell pregnant and the fact I still had a child at junior school may have contributed to that. Initially all seemed fine..
By the time little Caleb was 18 months old everything changed dramatically. Sophie was 13 and her attitude morphed into moody teendom from cutie in double figures. Everything Caleb needed became a chore and I stopped including her in any of his care as the odd time I did need her help, ‘Kevin the teenager’ would appear in full force.
I’d be subjected to a barrage of “hmphing” and “You must be joking”. Even asking her to hold him for a second resulted in dirty looks and a lot of impatient sighing. So I stopped asking and they rarely spent quality time together. Sophie just seemed like she didn’t like him all that much.
Two years on, our problems really started. Sophie began rebelling. She adopted a bad group of friends and her school work started to slip concerning us and her teachers. At times we wondered if having her world change so much over the last 2 years had had an impact or if we had contributed to this change in some way.
We had many a conversation about how to give her more one to one time and kept in constant contact with the school, staying on top of her studies and who she was friendly with. She was told to change her group of friends back to her old pals and either buck up her ideas or be grounded indefinitely. Her summer holidays were fast approaching and nothing seemed to be improving. Having the discontent in the house really effected Caleb as he became more demanding and attention seeking.
My husband and I sat down many times feeling at our wits end and decided to sort out a way to dedicate more time to Sophie without completely ignoring Caleb. With my husband working shifts it’s not always easy as the majority of childcare falls on me. He’s often not here for days on end and I have to take on the lion’s share with school meetings (which often involves me dragging a tantruming 2 year old in tow). Many a time, I wondered if I might lose my mind. It was the hardest time so far and really took its toll on all of us.
By the summer holidays, Soph was well and truly grounded. Laptops were banned as was her phone and no visitors were allowed. Her behaviour improved in a matter of weeks as did Caleb’s. We went on a family holiday and both kids were fantastic and finally she seemed to enjoy his company again.
Now we commit to more one to one time with each child and communicate well as a whole family. Asking for help from grandparents and extended family is essential too. It gives Sophie other people to reach out to with any concerns and problems she might have and it gives my husband and I, the extra support we need.
The age gap we have is a hard one. It means I basically have two children with completely different needs and desires. Caleb craves the company of children his own age and needs one to one time everyday with either my husband or I, as does Sophie but she also needs her own space. She’s quickly becoming a young lady and we try and make sure she never misses out on teenage stuff.
In an ideal world I wish they were closer in age but it just means I have to split myself a million different ways between them. Despite the age gap and the conflicts that may come, being a Mum to a toddler and teenager is still the best job in the world.
You can read more about our ups and downs as a family over on my blog.
Photographs © Julie.