Tuesday, February 2, 2016

On Shared Rooms





One funny thing people tend to remark whenever we've announced news of another pregnancy is whether we're going to have to "move" as a result of adding another child to the family. As if it calls for sudden, drastic expansions for additional room & space. Seemingly absurd if you consider the house we currently live isn't exactly a shoe box, but pushing 2,600 sq ft - which, by my personal preference, is about 600 sq ft too much house for my liking anyway. Four kids and all. I just prefer smaller houses. Even in the futile stages of a new house hunt I'm mainly seeking out single stories with a little less floorspace. But that could be due to my mopping of the wood flooring here serving as the bane of my existence for the past decade or so. Regardless, for some reason plenty of people seem to think that kids sharing rooms in general is a sacrifice in itself. Which I'm usually up to debate.

Especially considering my own childhood as an example. Where I can still vividly recall being splayed out on the living room sofa on a lazy Saturday afternoon settled into the thin slice of a sun split curtain "warm spot" watching reruns of the Brady Bunch as a kid, thinking how great it was to see a trio of tween aged kids working through their differences side by side, scheming up new plans and brainstorming solutions in that small blue (or pink floral if we're talking Jan, Cindy and Marsha's) room together. Because bunk beds were where it was at, and because I couldn't help but assume it must be pretty hard to ever get too lonely in a space so sweet.

You see, after I was seven and we moved down a few blocks to the house on Grand Blvd I was granted my own room. I choose the one closest to my mother's (for justified fear of ghosts and burglars) and my younger sister snagged the master suite down the hall (which all of my friends would call into question throughout the entire length of my teenage years upon their initial home tour, noting how much smaller my room was from hers.) With that said, I never actually wanted a room to myself. In fact I was downright terrified of the dark back then and utterly scared to sleep alone, so all the years I spent curdled up in the spare trundle bunk beneath my sisters white iron bed, at the old house on Park, was entirely fine by me. But I understood my own space was supposed to make me happy, so I took note & played along. Even when it saw me loosing consistent sleep because of being wide eyed and worried through the night, watching eerie shadows from the wind in the trees stretch and curl themselves out along my walls.

The irony now is having three of my own children holed up one small space where I see much of the same hesitancy's in Arlo as I remember in myself around his age. Where, at ten, you are expected to bargain and complain for your own room. And he does. Sometimes, just like I use to, but I know he doesn't actually mean it. Not yet anyway. Just like I never did. Because more times than not when I come in to turn out the last of their dim lit night lights its common to find him curled up beside to his younger on the edge of a much smaller bed frame to ward off whatever frightful visions must have been tugging at the edges of his dreams capes that hour. No matter what he pretends to wish for, Arlo doesn't want to sleep in a room alone. And although we don't talk about that, it's a fact known by us all.

Aside from plain fear though there is a whole other dynamic that unfolds in shared rooms. Where at the end of a long day, no matter the quarrels or resentments that may have blighted the majority of their daylight hours together, when it comes time to finally file into bed I tend to pause down the hall to hear them sweetly reconnecting, sometimes in recounts of various dramas that unfolded on the playground. Sharing highlights and low points. Elementary gossip complete with words and actions replayed. Philosophizing about the imagined powers of super hero's, wild bears, zombies, whatever. Discussing exotic planets they see glowing from the pages of beside science books, pondering the far out promises of life in other galaxies. Even politics and religion arise too. Like the other night when I overheard Rex telling Leon he would be voting for "Nobama" because he had the better hair cut of the bunch to which Leon confessed he was in fact voting the opposite end - for Trump because he's "funny" and all presidents should be "more funny." A familiar chatter reminding me of their long time penchant for heavy debate in way of big life issues since they were toddlers. Like the preschool years when the nightly topic revolved around what really killed Jesus. Leon, dutifully rehashing bullet points from the bible verses learned at school. Endlessly irritated by Rex's insistence's that he was wrong about it all and that poor Jesus was run over by a motorcycle or, on a theory he would come to decide on in later months, actually struck by a speeding bus.

Fact remaining: being forced to bunk together in my opinion helps foster early connections. Growing a bond in siblings that roots deeper as a result. Considering the conversations that might otherwise not find the time or momentum to fire up and fully bloom in separate spaces. Because in that little room, lined with three beds and crammed with common toys, I see the better half of new promises built daily, and stubborn apologies fall out. I hear deals being made and jokes being told. Secrets unlatched. In a room where the rest of the world and all the worries it entails tends to fizzle out and retire at the end of each day. Arguments, frustrations, joy and laughter mingled in those short hours before they are all three fast asleep. Where whatever petty resentments they've clung to trail off and dissolve. Where three kids learn to get along every day because they have to. Because there's no where else to go.

People say it will change as they get older and you know maybe they're right. But I also recall big families coming from generations before us who successfully raised multiple children with similar sets ups, in limited space & room sharing. So as of now, no one's asking. And here on this side, I can assure you no one's pushing either.


8 comments:

  1. We live in a two bedroom house with two adults and three children. The baby is with us and my two boys share a room and I absolutely love it. We also get asked if we plan on moving anytime soon and the answer for us is always, no. I love my kids sharing a room for the same reasons you mentioned. I love that most mornings dawn to five bodies crammed into one room (ours). There is something oh-so-special about a house that is literally full of life. I blogged about this here: http://his-girl-friday.com/2015/12/09/how-we-make-two-bedrooms-work-for-five-people/
    One question for you! At bedtime, do you let your kiddos just jabber and play the night away, or do you enforce a quiet time? That is my only struggle right now. We put our boys down and then it's play time for the next two hours, and they've shared a room their whole life so it's not like this is something new!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We live in a two bedroom house with two adults and three children. The baby is with us and my two boys share a room and I absolutely love it. We also get asked if we plan on moving anytime soon and the answer for us is always, no. I love my kids sharing a room for the same reasons you mentioned. I love that most mornings dawn to five bodies crammed into one room (ours). There is something oh-so-special about a house that is literally full of life. I blogged about this here: http://his-girl-friday.com/2015/12/09/how-we-make-two-bedrooms-work-for-five-people/
    One question for you! At bedtime, do you let your kiddos just jabber and play the night away, or do you enforce a quiet time? That is my only struggle right now. We put our boys down and then it's play time for the next two hours, and they've shared a room their whole life so it's not like this is something new!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Simply awesome piece of writing, J.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh yes I remember so clearly being allowed to have my own room finally (actually the whole of downstairs) and being the envy of all my friends, but then having to check every cupboard and under the bed before sleep every night. It was terrifying. We are now four people and and a dog (well a puppy, but one that is growing to be HUGE) living in a little cottage designed for only one, maybe two at the most people. We thought we needed a bigger house, but it turned out we just needed less crap. Most of the world live in homes/ huts/ shacks a fraction of the size. My dad is African (Eritrean) and could never understand why all of us kids didn't want to sleep in the same room like he did growing up. Such a crazy and somehow unnatural need we have in the Western world for our huge, sprawling homes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. you are so right about that, mama! great job!!
    xx

    ReplyDelete
  6. I shared a room with my sister for a number of years and then got my own. Can't say I didn't enjoy my own space, but by that time I was 16 nearing 17. I guess it's a little different at that age.

    My two boys have their own rooms. Yet, I find most times they prefer to sleep together. Especially my youngest, who consistently asks to sleep with his big brother or who just waits till he thinks no one will notice and sneaks in to curl up beside his brother. Even my oldest (who mostly claims that he likes his own space) will invite his little brother to sleep in his room some nights.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was going to write a blog post about this - timely! Because we live in a 102-year-old three-story house with way more space than the five of us need. Because all three of our boys now insist on sleeping in the same room, in bunk beds with a trundle. They couldn't be happier, and our four-year-old has stopped waking in the middle of the night from nightmares, which have plagued him his whole little life. It's a joy to see them all in there together.

    ReplyDelete