I must have miscalculated the degree to which I was sleep-deprived when I told my husband one morning that I thought our sons should share a bedroom. My blood sugar had to have been calamitously low because the natural consequences of this brave choice have left me exhausted, but hopeful.
Let me explain.
When I was a kid, my mother forced my sister and I to share a room for what felt like 600 years. My sister and I fought over everything from the ridiculous mess on her side of the room that inched ever closer to the duct-taped line that I put down to mark out my territory. I was too loud. She was too silly. I was too bossy. She complained too much. The wars raged on until we were granted asylum in the privacy of our very own bedrooms.
To avoid the winter of discontent from gale force attitudes blowing through my kids’ room, my husband I figured that we should do our best to avoid the idea of sides or the concept “mine.” We’d borrow from my husband’s hippy parenting philosophy and create a “kid room.” Most things would be shared, and we would use the shared space as a life lesson in problem solving and diplomacy.
Life was stupidly blissful in that little bubble of hope, and then reality crashed in.
Our kids, like any kids, have real personalities that come with real wants and needs. Those wants and needs are not the same, or at least, they are never the same at the same time. If one child wants a bunk bed, then the other wants a bed on the other side of the room. If one kid wants the room painted green, then the other suddenly hates the color green, but ketchup red sounds pretty good. If one kid wants a carpet, the other wants the floor bare.
Miraculously the details get worked out. There are bunk beds, but each kid gets to choose his own bedding theme, carpet covers part of the floor, and the walls stay beige.
Just when my husband and I were convinced that the worst part was over, the kids spent their first week in their shared space and all hell broke lose.
When I say “all hell,” I am talking about this:
They beat the snot out of each other with pillows, which escalated to stuffed toys and culminated in a ceramic piggy bank flying off a shelf and gloriously shattering on the floor with roughly $43 worth of freaking pennies scattering everywhere.
One kid changed his mind about the beige walls and decided to “work” on the problem himself. He managed to get the leftover paint from the living room—a lovely butter yellow—and slapdash “painted” his “side.”
The other kid decided that he was afraid of the dark and refused to sleep alone, so he climbed into his brother’s bed every night. In retaliation (because what else would an older brother do?), the older brother whispered scary stories until there were tears, followed by stomping feet down the hall—at 2 o’clock in the frigging morning—and then fists banging on my door. Thanks, punk.
They did manage to come together on a few key roommate issues, though, and this is where I can spot some pockets of hope:
When I tell the kids to clean their room, they inevitably work together to shove everything under the bunk bed or jam wads of clothes and toy parts into the abyss that is their closet. Problem solving!
I can hear them talking quietly at night about important boyhood things, and it warms my heart. Bonding!
When they both want something from me, and I say no, they run to their room and coordinate on how to win me over, con me, or berate me into a yes. See? Teamwork!
The way I see it, childhood is so short. My kids will only get so long to learn everything they need to know in order to grow into wonderful adults with the kinds of qualities I want them to possess, like respect, responsibility, gratitude and adaptability. While they are young and sharing a space, they can ease their way into those life lessons.
In the meantime, while I dream of a bright future with two cool sons living on their own out in the world, I must mediate the most ridiculous disagreements, and that is totally cool with me.