Singapore mom confesses: This is what it’s like to have a 10 year age gap between my kids

By Jane Ng   — February 27, 2018
  • First family activity together
    1 / 9 First family activity together

    One of the highlights of my family’s recent vacation was a guided cycling tour in Hoi An, Vietnam.

    Our two-year-old was strapped to a child seat affixed to my husband’s bicycle, while our two older children and I rode our own bikes.

    It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon cycling on an island to learn about a new culture in the refreshing 22 deg C weather.

    The toddler enjoyed the breeze and view from her seat behind her papa, while her siblings raced each other, cycling over puddles and rocks.

    It was also the first time that all of us took part in a physical activity together. Prior to that, one of us would usually have to sit out on an activity to watch over the toddler or push her in a stroller while the rest run or scoot.

    Related: Large age gap between siblings: what to expect

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  • Challenging age gap
    2 / 9 Challenging age gap

    With a 10-year age gap between our eldest and youngest, it has been challenging to find an activity that can engage all three kids at the same time.

    Their needs are so varied; there are days when I feel like there isn’t enough of me to go around. I can find myself alternating between reading nursery rhymes and solving algebra equations in the same hour.

    Other days I find myself vacillating between tween mood swings and toddler tantrums.

    Related: 7 questions to ask before you have another baby

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  • We didn't plan this
    3 / 9 We didn't plan this

    We did not plan for such a wide age gap, but with two miscarriages in between the three kids, the gap is bigger than we would have liked.

    It doesn’t help that the interests of a 12-year-old boy, a nine-year-old girl and a two-year-old toddler are almost completely different.

    While the older two might be content to read or draw on their own, the youngest may imitate them for a few minutes before deciding that she would prefer to have their attention and demand that they play with her.

    But what is fun to her is “boring” for her siblings, in their words. They will humour her for a while, before moving on to their own activities.

    Related: 5 ways to stop sibling rivalry

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  • Will they be close when they're grown up?
    4 / 9 Will they be close when they're grown up?

    I sometimes worry that they may not be close to one another when they grow up, even though there is no doubt the older two dote on the youngest. They watch out for her and are protective of her, even if they may sometimes laugh at her expense.

    They take pride in teaching her new words and celebrate when she succeeds, even with mispronunciations thrown in. Recent examples include “I don’t yike dis” (I don’t like this) or “act-koo-me” (excuse me).

    Related: 8 ways to praise your child without making his sibling jealous

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  • Please buy it for Mei Mei
    5 / 9 Please buy it for Mei Mei

    When she wants something her siblings have, she holds out her hands and chimes, “piss, thank too, welcome” (please, thank you, welcome), exasperating them when she insists on including “welcome” in her request.

    They generally don’t ask for toys, but pleaded with me to buy her a doll stroller, seeing how she loved one at a toy store. (Nope, not making space for that.)

    Related: Stay-at-home mum: How to handle a toddler and baby alone

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  • Just like  Sis
    6 / 9 Just like Sis

    The love is reciprocal and the toddler’s favourite activity is to mimic her sister. When the older one places a towel on her shoulders to dry her wet hair, the toddler asks for one to be placed on hers too, while her sister rolls her eyes.

    When they are feeling extra accommodating, they take the time to teach her to scoot, play hopscotch or just snuggle in bed with her.

    Moments like these give me hope that they will look out for one another even if they are years apart.

    Related: Toddler can’t accept new baby: What to do

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  • Extra hands to help
    7 / 9 Extra hands to help

    And there have been some advantages to having a wide age gap between the siblings.

    Two extra pairs of hands to help with groceries, bags or even to grab a diaper or wet wipe, is more than appreciated when I’m struggling with a toddler on my hip.

    When the toddler was sick and clingy, and wanted to eat oats for breakfast, her brother had no choice but to learn to cook it with me giving instructions on the side.

    When I’m rushing to get dinner on the table, her sister plays “masak” with her, cooking up a storm on their pretend cookware.

    Related: 5 ways to handle clingy babies and toddlers

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  • 8 / 9

    The older two can mostly help themselves, freeing me to take care of the youngest.

    They have had to make allowances for one another. Sometimes, we can’t stay out for a long lunch when the cranky toddler needs her nap. Other times, they have to help to entertain the toddler so that their papa and I can grab a bite.

    It helps that they are older and can understand when we explain such situations to them. And it is not such a bad thing, as these experiences will, hopefully, teach them empathy.

    Related: Should you be a stay at home mom: 5 questions to ask

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  • 9 / 9

    Perhaps it is “mummy amnesia” or the fact that I was working full time when the older two were toddlers, but I have forgotten what the older two were like when they were that age. I am grateful for the chance to relive the experience, watch her emerging personality and bask in her unwavering adoration.

    Her siblings have the privilege of seeing the world through a toddler’s eyes again. Her enthusiasm, curiosity and ability to enjoy simple pleasures have rubbed off on them.

    And that would not have been possible if they were closer in age.

    A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.

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