I often wonder if a different age gap would somehow make life a little easier in any way. Would it somehow equalize the very different, and often conflicting sets of needs of Little Diva and The Baby? And then I remember my favorite adage, "the grass is always greener on the other side." Of all the proverbs, I can relate to this one the most.
With that in mind, it's just best to concede that there are pros and cons to every situation. Here are a few things I have noticed.
A four year old looks lovingly at a new baby and understands what it means to be a big sister. On the flip side, she is also quite ticked off when she realizes that she waited nine months for a playmate that can't even hold her head up yet.
Your preschooler has many diversions that allow you time to tend to the needs of a baby. Unfortunately, many of these diversions come with 1000+ tiny pieces that always find their way into shared living spaces and pose serious health and safety risks.
An older child can get dressed, zip her coat, put on her hat and mittens and if you are really lucky, tie her shoes. However, a baby will hide said hat, mittens and shoes, and you will spend the better part of half an hour searching for them while the older child reminds you that it is "time to go NOW, MOM!"
Big kids will entertain your little ones with singing and dancing while you
Having a baby around teaches your older child patience and responsibility. But it can also give them leave to be a little bossy and a wanna-be disciplinarian. You have to nip this in the bud and make sure your big kid leaves the discipline to you.
A baby can start to know has she wants and needs before she can verbalize them (see my previous post about screaming), and this can frustrate an older child who just wants you to make the baby happy. The older child may even mimic such behaviors to get what she wants or get attention. Fortunately, a big kid will usually listen when you encourage them to redirect the baby into some other activity that does not involve shattering the eardrums.
Naps are pretty much on different schedules when your kids are 4 years apart. If your older child even naps at all, you can be sure it will not be when the baby is sleeping, therefore eliminating any and all chances for mommy to have some alone time to
Older kids often have some or many activities outside of the house. These activities almost always take place at the aforementioned baby nap times. This has proven to be a challenge for us, and usually results in a pretty grumpy baby being carted around to get the big sister to her activities on time. I am still looking for the upside to this one.
A few other awesome things:
When you big kids is starting to learn to read, baby style board books are a great way for them to learn sight words so they can entertain the baby at the same time.
Big kids are really proud of doing things like putting shoes on the baby, and helping them get their coat on and off. Getting little tasks like that off your plate gives you a few extra precious moments to find your car keys, or jot down a quick list for the store, because you will never remember what you went there for if you don't write it down.
A big kid is fiercely protective of their little sibling. They will be quick to notice if the gate is not closed or the baby has found one of the Polly Pocket outfits and stuck it in her mouth.
A few things you just have to deal with:
The big kid will always try to pick up the baby and carry her around the house. It totally reminds me of Olivia when she brushes her teeth, moves the cat, gets dressed, moves the cat again, etc.
Now that The Baby is a little heartier, and Little Diva is a little more coordinated, I don't intervene every time, but it is still nerve wracking.
The baby is always going to want to play with toys that are not age-appropriate because Leapster and magic markers are way more interesting than Little People and the Shape-O.
So as they continue to grow, I cannot wait to see their sisterhood blossom. Just like Little Diva, I cannot wait for the day that they can really play together. I don't really know if that day will ever come. By the time, The Baby is old enough for tea parties and dress up, Little Diva will probably want to hang out at the mall, but I am keeping my fingers crossed.