Carolynne Dear meets an expat family with a large age gap between children.
Amanda & Stephen Boddington have three children, Tyler, 12, Kyan, nine and Harlow, three.
Harlow completely changed the dynamics of our family. We went from having two boys of close age, who are independent, at the same school, play the same sports and enjoy the same things, to having a baby girl in the house with all the juggling that comes with a newborn.
The boys were very excited about a new baby. I remember going on a junk trip at eight months pregnant and getting out of the water and the boys were standing there with towels up their rash tops to look like they were pregnant too. They didn’t know what to expect though – and we didn’t know we were having a girl, so it was an amazing surprise. Tyler and Kyan loved that Harlow was a girl (phew!), someone to look after and protect.
Coping with a newborn after a large gap does tend to make you forget how you did it before. The hardest was the sleepless nights, especially as I still had to get up to get the boys to school on time. When the boys got home I wanted to focus on them but I also had a newborn who was more demanding in the late afternoons.
Harlow had to learn to fuss by herself for a bit but it became easier as she grew up because she loved all the noise and commotion. She had to slot in and was dragged everywhere, but with two boys at school I could focus on Harlow all day.
Harlow was my first child born in Hong Kong and the experience was much better than having Tyler in London nine years before. The midwives were helpful and advanced with helping you deal with a newborn.
The equipment has also improved [since the boys], especially the strollers, with the invention of the Bugaboo. Things are also more environmentally friendly now.
I tried to be stricter with routine and sleeps this time round – a bit more Gina Ford – but could still get out of the house. I also swaddled Harlow more than I did with the boys and it seemed to work.
Now the hardest time of day is when the boys come home from school. Harlow comes to extracurricular activities and pick ups – and at weekends she loves coming to cricket and rugby, watching and running around but that might change as she gets older. If there are no activities, I manage all three with very different needs and trying to keep the peace. They all tend to want to stay in the living room, which increases the noise level somewhat.
Holidays were difficult at first, with the boys wanting to do things that Harlow couldn’t do or having to leave earlier as she had to go to bed. They have got easier now Harlow can keep up and is more independent – although swimming is still a big risk as she insists on trying to keep up with the boys.
Dinner times are a bit of a hot topic as I like the kids to eat together but Tyler feels that it’s too early for him. I also like them to eat the same food, which sometimes they are not happy about.
The best bit about having a larger age gap is watching the boys be big brothers to Harlow, looking out for her and helping when they can. Tyler is older and more responsible now so he can help, although I guess he will get too busy being a teenager. Kyan is very thoughtful with his little sister and looks out for her all the time.
Trying to keep the family together and being able to do things together as a family rather than splitting up can be hard sometimes, but we always have Sunday dinner together and we all have breakfast together before rushing for the school bus.
The best times are bedtimes when the boys take it in turns to read to Harlow – and when all three are tucked up in bed fast asleep.