Saturday, December 3, 2011

Our Own Room

J has spent most of her early years of life sleeping in our bedroom -- and sometimes, our bed -- for an assortment of reasons.  But I can reasonably say, I think we finally have our own room back now.

I think it began when she was an infant and the only good place to set her up was in our room.  Then later, as a toddler, she was in her own room, but she'd start coming in when she was afraid or couldn't sleep and she was the fourth child ... we were too tired to keep putting her back in bed.  So, we started letting her in.  Once every so often became once a week.  Then once a week rolled easily into several nights a week.  Eventually, we set up a mattress under our bed that we could easily slide out every night, so we'd get at least a few moments before she'd climb up and settle in between us.

Disaster.  I saw it all happening in slow-motion, like a cup of red Kool-aid spilling off the table and over towards our tan carpet.  The carpet's ugly anyway ... I'm sure we're going to replace it some day.  There wasn't much I could do because I just didn't care enough to do anything at the time.  So now she's seven and finally, the situation is being addressed.

We live in a four-bedroom house with a loft.  When we moved in, S got a bedroom, J got a bedroom, Z and O shared a room and H got the loft, with the intention that we would divide the loft one day with a wall so he could have an actual room.

J didn't really ever use her room.  We had high hopes that our move would somehow change her opinion of sharing our room, but instead it made her want to stay in our room forever (she would talk about how she'd need a bigger mattress on our floor when she grew up and how she'd need one for her husband, too, so we knew she was pretty desperate for us not to push her out after the move).  It seemed sad and unfair to have her room sit empty while H had no walls or a door.  So we moved him in there.  We put J's "bed" in the loft, where she slept even less than when she had her own room because the openness to the downstairs freaked her out.

Then O kept getting mysteriously injured each morning because he would drive his older brother, Z, to frustration and finally get pushed or whacked or pinched or kicked.  So we moved O into the loft.  He and J played together most because of their close ages and so at least their toys could live together, even if J never slept there.  And if she did, we reasoned, it was all public and open, so they would still need to go change in the bathroom and so the fact that one was a boy and one was a girl at age five, wasn't of any concern.*

Things stayed like this for a long time.  Eventually, we had a relative come live with us for a bit and he shared Z's room, but he's out again, so Z's back by himself.  This is best, even though Z likes the idea of sharing the room, because he's actually quite an introvert and needs time by himself to mentally recharge.  He's just unwilling to admit that.

When everything happened with S over this past summer, we felt it was best to take her out of her private space and have her use J's bed in the loft till we could cleanse her room -- physically and spiritually.  Besides, while she was away, we did go through pretty much everything in an effort to find her, so she did not return to a tidy space (not that it was all that tidy when she left -- but this was more ransacked).  So S and O, the unlikeliest combination for roommates spent this whole past autumn sharing the loft.  Well, those two and J's toys.

And suddenly, the Thursday before Thanksgiving, J decided she wanted to move her "under the bed" mattress out to the loft to sleep there.  I felt uneasy about it not only because it seemed sudden, but also, the mattress is big and floppy and not the easiest thing to move in the middle of the night if she changed her mind.  But she insisted she'd be fine.

Meanwhile, we moved O to share a room with H now because O's free access to the stairs from the loft was starting to create other troubles.  He enjoys sneakiness.  There are lots of things to be sneaky about downstairs when the rest of us don't know he's down there.  Like candy.  Television.  Squeezing tubes of glue and spreading it across the homeschool table before class starts.  Stuff like that.

So one week before Thanksgiving and C and I were sharing our room (without J!), S and J were sharing the loft, Z had his own room again, H and O were sharing that room and my visiting mother stayed in S's room, which was finally picked up in time for her arrival.

Not once since the day J decided to move her mattress out to the loft did she come back in to our room to sleep.  She still wanted to use our bathroom, instead of the one in the hall.  She still sometimes wanted to watch a television show or movie in our room to help her settle down for the night when S wanted to go straight to sleep (J is usually up later than all of us -- she's always been that way).  But when it was time for tucked in, eyes closed, she would go to the loft without hesitation. 

So the last couple nights, S decided she was tired of the light streaming in through broken blinds in the loft (O had cut them up during a tantrum) and she was tired of J's lumpy twin bed when she has a perfectly nice queen in her room.  S moved back to her room.  Well, J didn't want to be alone in the loft.  But instead of moving back in our room, she moved into S's room.

We'd hesitated to allow J and S share a room in the past because when J was much younger, she was into everything and we just didn't feel it was safe to give her free reign in a pre-teen/teenage girl's room.  But now, J is a little more aware of dangerous things and does better to avoid them.  J and S have a little more in common as J grows.  And I think S likes the idea of having someone right there to help keep her accountable -- she knows J will tattle if she even looks like she's doing something she shouldn't.

Our oldest two kids are sharing rooms with our youngest two and our middle child has his own room.  It's crazy, I know.  But for the moment, it's working out really well.  And at last, the grown-ups have their own space again.  It's a little strange though, still, because I'm used to stepping over the mattress or sleeping all scrunched against the edge of the bed with no blankets.  So it's going to take me some time to adjust my routines and learn how to spread out again.

But I don't think it'll take too long.


* Is it me, or in the old days people made much less of different-gendered siblings sharing a room?  I mean, I've toured some olden day homes and the whole family would sleep on one hay mattress sometimes!  But somehow, being involved with foster care has heightened my awareness, and sensitivity, about brothers and sisters sharing rooms past age five.  So when we had J's bed in the same room as O's, I felt the need to constantly over explain our reasons to everyone so that no one would worry that they were behaving inappropriately.  I'm not saying what's right or what's wrong, I'm just recognizing this changed perspective in the world about the subject and how it's even changed in my own mind over the years.  Hmm.


  1. Interesting situation and I think it's great that you laid it all out for other parents to read about. One sentence you kind of left hanging:

    She still sometimes wanted to watch

    It's at the end of a paragraph, so I'm not sure if you forgot about it or if you have some code in there that is hiding part of it. :)

  2. Thanks for pointing that out, Jessica; that sometimes happens to me when I go back to fix a typo or something after publishing. I don't know why! It just deletes whole chunks of text. Probably it's highlighted when I go in to edit ... I don't know. I'll fix it though. Thank you. :) And thanks for commenting in general!

  3. OK, fixed. Oh, and it made me realize that I never put what happened to the loft. It's a work in progress, but for now, we've taken all toys out of bedrooms and the loft is a play space where the kids can play together. It keeps the messiest parts of their bedrooms to one space and there are fewer distractions in the rooms where sleeping should happen. Eventually, when they're not into Barbie dolls, Hotwheels and Legos so much anymore, I picture it as something for the kids, but more teen-friendly, but who knows? Maybe C will get a rockin' home office. :)

  4. Wow, that sounds exhausting! I'm glad it's all working out though.

  5. It sounds exhausting to me, too. I saw how it was planned just before the "plans" were finalized. I'm glad everything seems to be working. Love, Mom/Namma