The generation gap between the kids — and why it rocks

My middle son, Thomas, 18,  just went home after spending the weekend with me, my wife and our preschooler, Jacob.

One of the joys of these visits from my older sons has been watching their relationships with Jacob play out. The age gap has had unexpectedly positive effects.

With each interaction, I become more aware of how adult these boys have always been toward their younger brother. I recognize that any older sibling (full, step, half, any kind), may tend to act ‘parental’  and share in child care duties, but these guys are just so mature about it. They are allies with us in parenting Jacob. They watch out for him the way other adults would. We can leave the room without ‘tasking’ them to keep an eye on their brother and they still will.

My oldest son, Charlie, now 21, once said he feels more like an uncle to Jacob than like a brother. But from my perspective, he and Thomas are better than uncles. They are in a whole different class.

For one thing, the kinship between adult and child siblings seems much tighter than that between a niece or nephew and an uncle or aunt. Having a parent in common, my sons have had some similar experiences. The older ones may even experience flashbacks, just as I often do. (I’ll have to ask them.)

I think another thing that makes the relationship unique is that to some degree, all my kids have to answer to my authority as a dad. Other adult relatives can show good-natured defiance (“Your dad says ‘No sweets,’ but I won’t tell him about this cookie if you don’t.”) I think my boys are reluctant to do that.

The bottom line is that the generation gap rocks. I’m really enjoying it. I hope I’m not the only recycled dad having a positive experience with this.


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