Tips for Parenting Kids Close in Age [Part 1]

Did you ever wonder why the Lord designed it such that a baby grows inside the mother’s womb for 40 weeks (9 months)? Of course, there is something very holy about 40 weeks. Yet I believe God might have also been thinking, “Dear child of mine, raising children is tough. So to help you a little, I’m going to space out your babies by at least 9 months.” And everyone said AMEN.

The majority of biological children born close together are between 10-12 months apart. However, like a chosen few, we were gifted children a little closer in age. My precious babies are 8.5 months apart. One joined our family through foster care and adoption and one is biological. That’s another story for another time.

Many people comment that it’s like we are raising twins. Well… kind of. Yes, we needed two car seats, two cribs, two high chairs, two baby carriers, and a whole lot of diapers!  And yes, we did quickly have them on a good feed-wake-sleep schedule to help manage our busy days. Hallelujah for Prep for Parenting!!

Yet in many ways, they are not like twins. It took many LONG months to reach a place where they were both on the same routine. Our children were not “in-sync” like many twins are. There is a lot of growth that happens within 8.5 months for little ones, so they were at different developmental stages. I found myself wanting and expecting them both to act in the same way and at the same time. Yet it’s unfair and unwise to expect my 18-month-old to obey like my 2-year-old.

Now I am far from a perfect parent. Our Father and Creator is the only perfect parent. Phew. But my Type A perfectionism (a 1 and 8 on the Enneagram for all you Millennials) creates a daily struggle for me to be okay with things not being perfect or as I’d like them to be. It is necessary for all parents to learn that things in your home may not be always perfect, whether you have 1 child or 6 children! But it is especially necessary with two so close in age. Life as you once imagined it is going to look different. And that’s okay!

Along my journey, I’ve learned a few things. I would like to say that I wish someone would have told me these things a few years ago, but I’ll be honest… I might not have listened. (An 8 on the Enneagram means I’m strong willed. Ha!)  I hope this can be an encouragement for those raising children close in age:

  1. It does not get easier. It just gets different. When my children were babies, many people would try to offer encouragement that the parenting journey, especially with two who are close in age, gets easier as the kids get older. “Hang in there!” they would tell me. I have learned, though, that life just becomes different, not necessarily easier. It is true that as the children have gotten older it is a little less exhausting, but it is still hard. Let’s just accept that parenting at all ages, with one or multiple children (no matter how close in age), has its challenges. None of us deserve a higher mom medal for raising more babies.
  1. Ask for and accept help.This is hard for me, but it’s essential. We do not have family who live near us. So for us, it has been even more important to ask for help and to accept the help that people offered. When our first baby was in foster care, our church and community stepped up to help us. Then, when our biological daughter came along, they kept stepping up, and I’m forever grateful. Friends brought us meals, watched the kids while my husband was working and I needed to go to an appointment, and took our dog to the groomer when I couldn’t leave the house because a baby was sleeping. It takes a village! Find your village and go on the journey together!
  1. Everything takes longer. When my kids were babies, if I was leaving the house by myself with the kids, it was sometimes a 60-minute process of gathering the diaper bag, making sure it had everything we might need, preparing food or a bottle, changing diapers/clothes, getting coats and shoes on, putting them in car seats, and shuttling them to the car. Now that the kids are toddlers they can go get their shoes and coats, but still need help getting them on and help getting into their car seats. Things just take longer. This is relevant to all families with multiple children, not just those who are very close in age! We once fostered a sibling set of 4, so I get it! Before I had multiple children, I never understood why people with kids were often late!! My apologies for when I rolled my eyes at you mamas trudging into church late with your kiddos in tow!
  1. Schedule individual one-on-one time. This is true for all siblings of any age difference. There have been seasons of life when we were better about this than others. For a while, there were 30 minutes each day when one child was up and the other was napping. This created a natural window for me to have one-on-one time. Recently, our youngest moved to 1 nap a day, meaning both kids nap at the same time, so it’s become a bit more challenging to have that individual time. However, it is still possible. Intentionally plan 10 or 15 minutes a day to do something special with each child. For littles, it isn’t as much about what you do as it is about focused attention. As the kids get older, we look forward to being able to go on daddy/mommy and son/daughter dates to create the space to connect individually with each child.

In part two of my blog, I’ll continue sharing 4 more important lessons I’ve learned along the way while parenting my almost-twins.

Daneen and her husband, Joe, call the badlands of eastern Montana home. After serving overseas in three African countries, Daneen gained a deep passion to support orphans and vulnerable children. She serves as the U.S. Administrator for Christ’s Gift Academy, which is a school for orphans in Mbita, Kenya. Daneen and her husband are foster parents and advocates for the children in foster care. When she gets time away from being “mom”, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband and hiking in the mountains…. or dreaming about relaxing on a beach!

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