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The Great Age Gap Debate

The biological imperative to perfectly recreate ourselves in miniature form is strong, and we're still missing one, but when's the right time?

Now that my first child is approaching her second birthday, family life must finally be getting a little too peaceful because my husband and I have had a conversation about ruining all that peace and having a second child.

After briefly flirting with the notion of having an only, I came to the conclusion that my brain was just too firmly imprinted with the vision of a perfect family consisting of two parents, two kids, one dog. (Sorry, dog, no sibling for you).

Not sure if it was my own upbringing, or a barrage of media and societal modeling, but I can't quite picture my perfect family as less than four. But not more than four, by any means. So the question wasn't if, but when.

According to received-on-the-playground wisdom, if you plan incorrectly and have your children too many years apart, you risk siblings who have nothing in common, living like friendly cousins, occupying the same house but little else. You also run the risk of experiencing baby shock the second time around: jumpers, bouncers, and bottles have been long packed away into the attic and your diapering arm is out of shape.

Or, if you go too far the other way, and pack them all in closely, you simply risk mass and utter chaos.

I think I'd rather err on the side of the former scenario. I've seen some snippets of daily life with "three under three" or "two under two" families, and I always feel grateful for my relatively sane existence with just one, thank you very much. But there are perks to getting all the craziness over within the shortest possible timeframe, as many parents report.

Kimberly Huber, a West Babylon mom of two boys ages 2 and 8 months, says there were a lot of deciding factors that tipped the scales for her family.

"The best is seeing them interact and knowing they will remain close friends as they get older. Everyone we know with closely spaced children has given us nothing but encouragement, so hopefully the positive side grows with each day. We want a big family and nobody is getting any younger."

Huber acknowledges that the day-to-day logistics can be challenging, and although she worries "that I can't give them enough individual attention," she thinks she's given them the gift of each other.

As your first gets older it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine going backwards: to re-enter the fiery crucible of early infanthood days, with the attendant lack of sleep and stress. But go back you must if you want to come through the other end with a finished family, whatever that means in your case. There are certain milestones that rumor has it will make the second one's coming easier: wait until the first is potty trained, or starts preschool, or some other marker of independence.

I'm worried that a baby will cut my daughter's babyhood prematurely short and that I won't have the opportunity to lavish the attention on the second that she enjoyed. I want enough of a gap that I can fully enjoy each first, second, and third years of life. But, of course, we aren't getting any younger, and the lure of being all done with childbearing and the baby stages is strong.

The verdict? We'll wait one more year and see how we feel.

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