When people ask me how I survived the years when we had two children under the age of two, and later three children under the age of five, my answer is always that it was (and is) in part because of my wonderful oldest daughter Jillian.
We did not choose or set out to have an almost five year age gap in between our first born and our second oldest child, it is just the way things worked out for us. We also didn’t necessarily plan to have our last three children in such quick succession either (don’t you just love when you have one set of plans and then God has another, always better, idea?)
Jillian’s cheerful, helpful, happy nature makes her such an awesome big sister. And while, like her mother, she’s a bit on the introverted side and doesn’t brag about herself, I don’t mind bragging about her at all – she’s a terrific kid!
For this week’s Friday Five I want to talk about and celebrate my big kid! There’s so many wonderful things about having older children.
Here are just a few of my favorite things about big kids:
1. I can trust her with more responsibility. I love little kids, of course I do, but it is really nice to be past the stage with at least one of them where I leave the room and come back to find it, and possibly my child, in a shambles.
It is nice to be able to go out to eat and actually sit down at the table and eat my own food from my own plate (mothers of toddlers who have ever had a restaurant experience like I had with my toddler recently will know exactly what I’m talking about here, I’m sure).
What’s more, most times I don’t even have to remind Jillian to pick up after herself, she just automatically does it.
Plus, it is nice to have an extra pair of hands for fetching a diaper or helping a younger sibling cross the street or fixing someone a snack.
She’s not babysitting completely on her own yet, but many, many of my recent writing deadlines have been accomplished because of hiring Jillian to watch her younger siblings (and her rates are reasonable, too).
2. The younger kids really look up to her and it seems to bring out the best in her. I love that my three littlest kids have another person who lives in this home with them who loves them and cares about them.
Oh sure, we are a normal family with normal sibling spats, but most of the time the younger Flecks look up to Jillian and she’s earned rock star status in their eyes. What Jillian does is cool and if she approves of their art project, dance move, movie choice, hair do, etc. then they just beam with pride! I love that Jillian seems to know with great power comes great responsibility and, for the most part, she doesn’t take advantage of the high esteem her younger siblings hold her in.
3. Spending one on one time with her is a real joy and she loves to travel. Her dad and I both love going places with Jillian. Last fall she and I traveled alone together to Crafting Community in Palm Springs and I’ll admit that before hand I was a little bit worried about how that would go, just she and I and our sometimes prickly relationship as mama and tween, over the few days we’d be together.
It was an awesome blessing to find that not only is she a great, laid back traveler (who I don’t have to constantly supervise like I do her younger siblings – no “don’t eat that!” or “where is your backpack?” or “hands are not for hitting”) but that without the distractions of younger siblings we could both relax and just enjoy each others company and have a great time exploring new places.
If you ever get a chance to take a trip with your older kiddo, I highly recommend it!
4. She is capable of reason and understanding. Now, she’s still a normal kid, so she doesn’t always use these skills, but one of the great things about having older kids is that they are capable of reason and understanding.
She can be patient, she can be flexible, and she can be understanding. Her attitude contributes quite a bit to the level of peace in our household and her dad and I both appreciate her developing maturity as she grows up.
5. We can talk about books and read them together and have real, in depth discussions. This goes for movies, tv shows, art projects, and so many other topics, too.
We are careful not to treat her as another adult, after all she is still a kid, but having a twelve year old around means that I also have someone to have intellectual conversations with beyond “Steve or Joe on Blues Clues” or “yes, you really do like green beans, I promise.” I have a sidekick, someone to share a giggle with over a younger child’s crazy behavior or to read aloud a really cool passage in a book.
It is really wonderful to be able to relive some of my favorite things about the books I have loved reading in my life by getting a chance to experience them again as Jillian’s mama. I can still remember the expression on her face a few years ago when she came up to me, tears in her eyes, and told me she had finished Charlotte’s Web. I just hugged her and said, “I know, baby” and she told me, “mom, that was such a good book!” and we both knew exactly what she was talking about.
Speaking of books, have you seen this cool book list that my friend Tsh put together for big kids? Totally worth checking out!
What are some of the ways that your big kids are awesome? How has your relationship with your kids changed for the better as they have grown older?