Parenting With An Age Gap

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Parenting With An Age GapDon’t mind me coming to you with parenting advice for kids with an age gap when I’m in the thick of it as a mom to a teen boy (13) and two girls (eight and nine). There have been more fighting and non-resolution scenarios that have to be slept on this past year than I ever thought possible. I thought things were crazy when I had one in diapers pulling everything apart in the house, one teething and breastfeeding (same time, real fun!), and the other upside down at a table while homeschooling. In those moments of crazy, I’d find my son laying one of his sisters down for a nap while I took a business call.

Now, I wonder, “Can we ever get back to that sweet spot?”

I found peace slipping through the cracks of our home and I didn’t like it. I have shared previously what it’s really like parenting multiple kids and how to show up for your teen, but this age gap is a whole new arena. The teen is craving independence and not having much interest in making his sisters happy by playing with dolls. The girls are getting into a groove of close in age friendship that is leaving their brother out. It’s all been so new.

So where am I focusing to get us back on the same page?

  • Buying toys and doing activities that all can be done together. For us, that’s hiking, bike riding, swimming, and jumping on a trampoline. For 12 years, I said I would NEVER own a trampoline. So maybe the first tip should have been “never say never.” Activities we can all do together bring the team mentality. We are all in it together. Whether it’s hiking where no one person can outpace the other or swimming where we are cheering on the middle child to jump off the high dive, we are in the same area, preferably outside our home for a reset.
  • Serving together. You want to get your kids back to a reality check outside the walls of their home? Do a service project together. This is an area I will be doing more of through the year, and not waiting until the holidays to find needs to be met. Find ways in your church to serve, be a friendly and helpful neighbor, or serve a friend in need together. This is one non-negotiable area where they don’t get much wiggle room to fight or get frustrated with each other, consistently bringing them back to “this isn’t about us, it’s about who we are able to help.”
  • Doing bedtimes together. I just finished reading The Secret Garden one chapter at a time out loud to my kids before bed. (Please do not share that info with any of my teen’s friends!) Every night they wanted to read one more. I wish as an adult someone would read to me, so why wouldn’t they still like that even with an age gap of fiction interest? Even our Bible devotions are for kids, but I get something from them every night. Just because there is a gap in age doesn’t mean that the sweet night times have to be separate, and I don’t know why I started making them that way.
  • Having one-on-one time with each kid. This does not have to be extravagant. My oldest is fine watching one of his sisters while I run an errand with the other and have sweet, uninterrupted, non-competing talks together. I can listen a lot better when it’s face to face, one kid at a time. Asking grandparents to help or taking advantage of the girls having a sleepover with a friend while the oldest and I stay up late. He laughs at me trying to figure out video game basketball, and I get a peek into what’s going on in his life. This is a practice in “preventative discipline” where they know they’re loved, appreciated, and enjoyable to be around all on their own.

I want to be real clear that when I say the peace was leaving my home. It’s like it packed up out of fear and we were all walking on eggshells. Being the mom — the thermometer of attitudes and the ringleader of these little hearts — I couldn’t stand to see that happen. I say it daily to myself “I will not give up in the hard.” I am the adult in this house and my kids went through their parents divorcing (though not spit fire horrible, there is no easy about that), and while their Dad isn’t parenting alongside me, I can still call him or a friend or my Momma and vent out frustrations.

Just the other day, I walked into a house my Mom was remodeling and started crying my eyes out while blubbering “I can’t…anymore…it’s…too…hard…” Hold space for all the emotions in a safe, adult place when you need it. My guess is, we will be experiencing the seasons time and again long past the youngest turning 18. It’s better now to put some life-long practices into place. My goal is for our home to be a safe place of peace, for my kids to be loyal and kind to each other, and for me to not emotionally wound them to the point where years of therapy are needed because I exploded on them.

I think we can be creative and present even with the age gaps, Momma!

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“Chattanooga is something you can have any way you want it…” I am so blessed to share this city with my three children: Dallas (13), Lillie-Mae (9), and Mindy (8). We enjoy the mountains and the valleys that make up the geography of our city as well as the metaphor they stand for in our lives. Always on an adventure in parenting, I look forward to each new day given with them. Follow along with our antics on Instagram @amomsbestguess and here as we share our city/country living love with you.