'I have a sibling age gap of almost 5 years. Here's why it's so much better.'

I remember my little sister's tiny finger wrapped around my pinky as clear as day. 

Her nose was upturned, eyes wide and bleary-looking. She lay wrapped in crisp white hospital blankets, in a tiny incubator, less than a metre from her twin sister. They were identical, but I had known who was which by the way they breathed and how their lips rested. I had known them instantly and separated them from one another before they had even gotten to see the outside of the hospital walls. 

Meeting them is the first real memory I have. Sure I can picture flashes of my mother before and I can see a dog eating out my hand that I know we had before my twin sisters' were born. Some moments and memories are familiar to me, but nothing as clear as this. 

I had cradled their cheeks through the small hole in the box with such an intensity that it shocked even me, at almost-five years old. I considered that perhaps this was the first time I had realised what true, overwhelming love was. 

Watch: The unspoken, heroic acts of sisterhood. 

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I'm 25 years old now and those tiny twins who were considered miracle babies back in 2002 are now 21 years old. They're best friends and dental assistants and still share the same identical features that strangers can't differentiate. 

I have another sister who is just 18 months younger than me. We have been best friends and enemies our entire lives. When my twin sisters were born, they followed us around in our old dresses and gum boots, jogging to catch up with our strides. This is the way of having siblings much younger than you; you think you're walking alone and then, in the corner of your eye, they are there, a few steps behind you, trying their hardest to be right beside you.


Even now, as we experience our 20s together, I'm still finding that I have hit milestones before them. And I love it because they're not alone in moving out of home or applying for their first big girl job. They will always have me.

Shannen was four years old when her twin siblings were born. Image: Supplied.


It used to be uncommon for siblings to have big age gaps, but now it’s becoming a norm. From 1967 to 2017, the time between sibling births increased by about three-quarters of a year. 

Despite this becoming much more common, research suggests that siblings who have an age gap of around 27 to 32 months have better health outcomes for both the mother and siblings. While they might 'argue' more, they tend to be closer. 

And while I appreciate the research, I've experienced both sides of the coin as someone with a sibling born less than two years after me and then twin siblings born almost five years after me.

Here's why I disagree that smaller age gaps are better than big ones.

There is no competition. 

I never needed to prove I was better than my little sisters, because everyone already knew I was. (I kid!)

In all seriousness, being a big sister has taught me to nurture the relationships I have because I realised at a young age that watching my siblings feel joy felt much better than bringing them pain. 

Maybe they need more from me than I'll ever need from them (although that is honestly unlikely — they're the first few people I call when I want another opinion), but it's worth it. Because I am a big sister and I know all about growing up too fast so if I can help them stay a child for a little bit longer, I will.

You protect each other. 

No one makes fun of a little kid when they know they have an older, scarier sibling a few grades ahead of them. 

In all fairness, I've always been a gentle giant, but it helped to have me around just for show and my sisters knew it — because they developed sassy mouths very early on when they realised no one would argue with a little girl who has a bodyguard. 


In saying that, my little sisters have protected me their entire lives. Perhaps I'm getting a little too specific here, but I remember coming home after a hard day during my high school years when my siblings were about 10 years old. They'd heard from our parents that I'd failed a test I needed to ace, so they wrote me a long message detailing just how much they loved me and how brilliant they believed me to be.

They placed it squarely in the middle of my perfectly placed pillow, in the bedroom they had tidied for me so I had less stress when I came home. 

The overall lesson from this was that younger siblings might not understand everything yet, but they will always try to because we are their heroes and they love us almost as much as we love them. 

"I am a big sister and I know all about growing up too fast so if I can help them stay a child for a little bit longer, I will," writes Shannen Findlay. Image: Supplied.


You need love in different ways, so it's less pressure. 

Yes, you definitely both need love from your parents, but for the first 18 years of my life, I never needed it in the same way my little sisters needed it — or at least never at the same time. 

Because while I was panicking over exams to get into university, my sisters were mourning their childhoods and getting fitted for their first bras. I needed a hug from my mum after a long day at work whereas my sisters needed one in the middle of the night after a bad dream. 

The love is there in the same form, perhaps just separate fonts. Being years older than my siblings helped my parents stagger out their responsibilities by... a lot.

Overall, it's an extreme honour to be a big sister. I wouldn't change any of it and what I love most about it is that I can remember every milestone of my little siblings' lives. Their first steps. Their first words. I remember bath times and I remember reading them a story to get them to go to sleep. 

Upon reflection, I think I'm actually lucky there has been some distance between our ages. And I think most siblings with big age gaps would feel exactly the same. 

Feature Image: Supplied.