The lights are off, but I can hear them talking. I push my ear to the door, attempting to eavesdrop over the roaring noise machine. I can tell they are arguing about something, but it doesn’t seem to have escalated yet — I think it’s about whether or not to keep the closet light on.
The older one, on the top bunk, wants it off — and his younger counterpart beneath him is advocating for a little nightlight security. I can hear them going back and forth; after a few minutes, it stops. I can see through the crack in the doorway that the closet light is still on. They worked it out on their own and settled on a solution. And soon, they fell asleep. It doesn’t always go this smoothly, of course — them navigating disagreements as co-habitants — but for the lessons learned and bonds created, it’s worth it.
I currently have more kids than bedrooms, so two share out of necessity. But that was not always the case. I transitioned my second son straight out of a crib and into the bottom bunk, and since then, it has been a revolving door of bedroom switching. Two of them are always roommates.
And it comes with its difficulties for sure, especially on days of high volatility and low patience. There are battles over wall space, proper separation of their belongings, and desires for alone time. There are tears and tantrums and sometimes thrown fists, but within all of that, they learn important lessons. They gain practice in teamwork and troubleshooting as they make their way through small and large arguments and disagreements.
There is also great value in learning to share living space at an early age. An often-underrated but incredibly valuable and necessary skill for later in life, my kids are learning to cohabitate. They work to create their own personal desired living space while also respecting the needs and wants of their roommate. Sometimes it goes well, and other times it does not — either way, valuable insight is gained.
But more important than the practical lessons learned are the bonds formed through late night conversations and impromptu room projects, like when they both decided to sleep on the top bunk together or when they built the fort on the ground using mattresses and a coffee table. I even overheard my son’s chatting late one night — again perched with my ear to the door — about their plans to live next door to one another as adults. The younger planned to have a basement full of video games and the older a backyard basketball court.
And while there is often jealousy and complaining around who shares a room and gets their own space, it’s all relatively short lived. Everyone gets a turn, and sooner than I would like, they will all be out of the house and onto their next adventures. So while they are here, I will allow them the chance to work through conflicts over bedding, poster positioning, and nightlight placement. Because it is my true belief they will gain closeness and skills that will benefit them later.
So to their future roommates: You're welcome! They will come to you with at least a sliver of roommate experience to lean on when things get tricky. They won’t be perfect, I can assure you. But at least they have been there before.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.