I had my last three girls in a 3 year period hoping that they would be close not just in age, but in their connection as well. It was a tough few years at first having three children under the age of 4 in the house 24-7 but I always hoped it would be worth it.
They are all very close. Of course, at ages 4, 6 and 7 there is some bickering. Pink, at almost 8, occasionally gets "annoyed" with both her sisters. She loves to play with them most of the time, but other times is far too "mature" and wants to hang with her peers or just be alone.
Tink started out in infancy as the most high-maintenance but is actually now the most exceptionally well behaved. I always said "I could have 100 Tinks"... if I was guaranteed they'd all be Tinks. Of course, she's only human and only 6 and has her own struggles as the "middle-ish" child.
Rella at 4 pushes her sister's buttons constantly and is a bit of a nudge messing up their rooms, breaking crayons, and not able to follow the rules of a game.
Regardless of these developmentally appropriate sibling spats and growing pains, they actually get along really well and have a genuinely solid relationship with each other. They love each other, support each other, and I have no doubt that they are deeply connected for life.
I'm glad that my 4 years of perpetual pregnancy and nursing and string of showerless, sleepless days was worth it in the end. The reason I did it all was to see this:
Yet, there is something missing. Or, more specifically, someone.
Okay, not missing really - just on the fringes. There are 9 years between CB and Pink and that significant age difference, along with the impact of Autism on her socially and the fact that she spends every other weekend and long school breaks in Maryland with her dad, has resulted in a bit of a chasm between my first born and the littlest three musketeers.
I notice it. It makes me feel bad.... often. I wonder if I'm trying hard enough to include CB and ache at her absence in photos, at the dinner table, on many holidays and on our summer vacations.
I have a friend with a similar age difference between her first girl (now almost 18) and her last two daughters who are 4 and 6. She says that even though her teenager is a typical teen, that she leads a completely different life... not wanting to necessarily be going to all the "kiddie" stuff with her "baby sisters" and preferring to hang out with her peers. She apparently even vacations with her friends at the beach when her parents take the little ones to Disney or Great Wolf Lodge. This is some consolation, but it's still difficult to not overanalyze if CB is included enough in the things we do as a family - even when she often doesn't want to be.
I have to remind myself of what I learned umpteen years ago on Sesame Street - There are lots of different ways to be a family. With divorce, with blended families, with "late in life" babies, etc. etc., there are so many variations on the "family unit." If I've learned one thing about life it's that just because things don't go according to "plan" doesn't mean they are any less wonderful. What really matters in a family? The perfect image of what it appears like to everyone else? The perfect image of what you hold in your own mind of how it is "supposed to" be?
For me, if everyone is safe, happy and thriving... looking out for each other and loving each other... enjoying spending time together in whatever way works for each child... that is what it's all about.
Yes, I have four children and three are musketeers. But the great thing is that even at my deepest moments of worry and guilt I never doubt this one truth - Pink, Tink and Rella LOVE their big sister to pieces. They will care about her and care for her forever.
After her dad and step dad and I are old and gray, dead and gone, they will be there. Expecting nothing in return. Because of all the things family can be, this is the most important - Unconditional love. And, we got it here in our imperfect 'lil family. We got it, with loads to spare.