Same fence, different life seasons:
Top photo July 2009: Ages 6, 4, and 4
Bottom photo August 2015: Ages 12, 10, and 10
Just in case you're thinking of having kids close in age...
you should know that the early years are full-on, constant, and hard.
Over the past week the kids and I decided to watch "The Martins Life" on DVD. It's our own video library, dating all the way back to when each child first joined the family.
It's our documented family history: birthdays, holidays, adoption days, vacations, and thankfully a few moments here and there when Steve or I remembered to pick up the camera and just document the ordinary.
I view scenes from eight years ago with a sense of wonder, joy, amazement, and crazy passing through my mind:
"I did that and survived?! HOW?!"
The three preschoolers in each frame are more or less the same height, weight, and shoe size. Ages 4, 3, 2. Less than 22 months separating them in age, and even less than that in developmental maturity.
A few frames later we arrive at ages 5, 4, and 3. With three littles, we seem to have three of nearly everything: three plastic cars just their size, three tricycles, then bikes.
Then there are plenty of occasions in the video when we see what happens when there isn't three of everything and the kids have to figure out how to deal with it.
Let's just say they don't always choose the most mature response.
This is hilarious on screen: We giggle watching Elijah and Jonathan fight over a toy train, or as Trishna impatiently "waits" for her turn on the sled.
But to my recollection, that type of non-stop, day-after-day action wasn't so funny at the time. For them or me.
The early years of having kids close in age are no picnic, that's for sure.
But that's only part of the story.
Because in case you're thinking of having kids close in age, you should also know this:
You hit a stride and something divinely beautiful happens along the way.
Life is far from perfect here in the Martin household, still plenty of daily bickering and reminders to put others first happen here. All. the. time.
But now that my kiddos are 12, nearly 11, and 10 I can say this:
They are each other's best friends. When our learning time ends for the day, they disappear together into their "theater" (AKA the barn), where they create and rehearse shows and plays.
All goes smoothly for a while, then a conflict erupts to deal with. Slowly they're learning the signals that mean they need to take a break from each other.
So they disappear among our five acres for a while: to the brook, the pond, to check the garden, to bang sticks, to play instruments. When they're ready, apologies are eventually made and they try again.
It's the beauty and mess of real-life relationships, happening right in the safety of my backyard. And unlike in the early years, I don't always have to be there directing the process.
In fact, sometimes I don't see them for an hour or two.
And just in case you're thinking of having kids close in age, you should keep this in mind:
It's pretty fabulous when everyone is (more or less) interested in similar topics.
This makes homeschooling and family life smoother in many ways. We can read as a family after dinner without any toddlers interrupting, without concern as to whether or not our story is appropriate for the younger ones amongst us.
I recently instituted a D.E.A.R. time in the mornings: Drop Everything And Read. Each of us, myself included, meets in the living room with our chosen books. We set a timer for 20 minutes and read to ourselves--all together in the same room.
I've gotten through page after page of my current novel, a treat much more unlikely to happen mid-morning if I still had a preschool-age (or younger) child in the house.
Those of us raising children close in age make up a unique group. We have our own struggles, our own issues to work out, our own highs, our own lows.
So just in case you're thinking of having kids close in age, never forget this:
You're embarking on a wild, thrilling, unpredictable adventure. Hang on for the ride of your life.
“I beg leave to assure my honored readers that most of the incidents are taken from real life, and that the oddest are the truest; for no person, no matter how vivid an imagination he may have, can invent anything half so droll as the freaks and fancies that originate in the lively brains of little people.”
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Men