On average, siblings are about 12 to 18 months apart from one another in age. But that's not always the case, and that's okay.
Sure, a wealth of research suggests that children who are closer in age exhibit less sibling rivalries, play well together and the family feels like a unit that grows together — plus, young girls actually benefit intellectually from closer-spaced sibling age gaps.
But there are tons of pros to spacing children out, as well. Think: Parents have more quality time with their children in their young developing years, and older siblings can help raise and teach their younger siblings. Parents may have more time to juggle a career, as well, when they're only raising one child at a time.
Nonetheless, parents of children with a wide age gap are constantly fielding unsolicited concerns from strangers and relative alike. Here are seven of the rudest questions people ask parents of children with an age gap (and what you should never ask yourself!).
1. "Are your kids from the same marriage?"
Parents of children with an age gap are often asked if their children are from the same marriage. This is, of course, is an uncalled for question — and it's perhaps even a touchy subject if the kids are not from the same marriage. Perhaps the first marriage ended poorly, for example. Or, if the children are young, and they don't understand the concept of step-siblings yet, parents may not want to raise their children as thinking of themselves as separate step-siblings tied to the negative connotation that too often associates it but, rather, as siblings like all other siblings.
And there's also the possibility that the kids are, indeed, from the same marriage. And the age gap was a choice.
Either way, it's no one's business to ask.
2. "Was the last one a mistake?"
Asking a parent if their youngest child was a mistake is terribly inconsiderate. Maybe the pregnancy was unintended, but the outcome is all the same: another member of the family that they love just the same. Equally, unintended pregnancies can be traumatizing for many mothers, and this is, therefore, an unacceptable probe.
Or maybe, again, the last child was not a mistake, and the age gap was an intentional decision.
3. "Was the first one a mistake?"
For the same reason that asking if the last child was a mistake, asking if the first child was a mistake is not okay.
4. "Why are you starting over so late in the game?"
Many people ask parents of children with an age gap why they're "starting over," as if their first time around wasn't successful. This carries the connotation that their older children are failures in some way, which is offensive in and of itself. It also, again, strips parents of their authority to make a sound decision for themselves to purposefully have children spaced apart from one another.
5. "Aren't you worried they won't be close?"
Sure, science says that when children grow up close in age together, they play well together. But there are all sorts of sibling relationships, and it's up to families as units to cultivate close relationships. Some siblings who grow up close in age (even twins!) show rivalry or even resent one another because they're fighting for their parents attention. Meanwhile, some younger siblings that grow up apart from their older siblings cherish the nurturing relationship they have — they have a someone to whom they can look up, respect and seek life advice at every stage.
In short, all relationships are different; age gap isn't the only determining factor in what makes siblings close or not. And asking about this is just short-sighted.
6. "Are your kids blood-related?"
Doubting if children are blood-related just because there's an age gap is an ignorant assumption. Beyond that, however, many choose not to consider blood relation a determining factor in how they define "family." Many families have step-, half- and adopted siblings, but family is family.
7. "So the first kid didn't turn out okay?"
In the same way that asking parents why they're starting over is unacceptable, asking them (even if it's in a teasing manner) if their first kid didn't turn out okay is just plain ruthless. This suggests that they've waited to see how their first child would end up and then they've decided to give it another go because the first one didn't pan out quite as they'd anticipated or hoped. And that suggests that they don't love their first child. Which is a crude suggestion.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.