Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thinking Outside the Box

How old does my son need to be before he gets his own bedroom? I really hope we're not in this house by that time, and that we'll be blessed with a four bedroom house... until then, he's sharing a room with his sisters. Thoughts on when it is appropriate for him to move to his own room?  He is 5, his sisters are 7, 2, and newborn.  We currently have a three bedroom house.

Mollie writes:

At age five, he can still be with his sisters, especially if they all get along.  Sure helps keeping the toys corralled.  

I understand that you have a three bedroom house, with three daughters, a son and a hubby.  When I was growing up, we had multiple homes (my dad got transferred a lot).  At maximum, we were eight strong, a daddy, mommy, four daughters and two sons.  There's something funny about how 'creative' big families can be!

When I was almost nine years old, I had two older sisters and a baby brother.  We had just moved to Eugene Oregon and my parents purchased a three bedroom house.  Mom and Dad were challenged to find a comfortable way to organize bedroom allocation.  What they did in that house is they moved the three daughters into the master bedroom, complete with a separate bathroom.  The room was larger and could accommodate 3 beds and the usual paraphernalia accumulated by a 12 year old girl, an 11 year old girl and a 9 year old girl.  And it was interesting - the oldest was thinking boys were cute, the middle one loved her Barbies, and I lived for dogs.  Mom and Dad had a second bedroom, and our baby brother had the smallest room, but it was all his own.

Two years later, we moved again when Dad was transferred to Portland Oregon.  My folks bought a four bedroom tri-level house, with three bedrooms and a bath and a half bath upstairs, a kitchen, living room and dining room on the main level, and another bath, family room and bedroom on the lower level.  What they did, then, is they put the two oldest kids in the master bedroom, the baby brother in the smallest bedroom and I GOT A ROOM OF MY OWN!  This only lasted for a few months, as #5, a daughter, was born and was moved into my room with me.  But it was fun, the baby was a novelty and I learned how to change diapers like a pro by the time my 12th birthday rolled around.

But, best of all, Mom and Dad got the downstairs bedroom.  Privacy at last!

A few years later and we moved again, just in time for #6.  By then, the oldest daughter was on her way to college, and we juggled bedrooms a lot.  The two babies, a girl, aged two, and a boy, newborn, shared a bedroom, another sister and myself shared a bedroom, and, once again, the oldest boy got a room of his own.  Eventually, Dad built a fifth bedroom in the garage, complete with a bathroom to accommodate the older siblings comings and goings.

Big families have to think outside the box.  My husband came from a family with five kids and his parents started out with a 2 bedroom house with an unfinished upstairs and unfinished basement.  Eventually, John's dad finished the upstairs with one big bedroom for the three girls, and a smaller bedroom for John.  The baby had a downstairs bedroom, and John's parents had the fourth.  And John's dad did the same as my dad, he put in a fifth bedroom and a second bathroom in the basement (not the garage) for kids as they came home from college, military duty, etc.  How they coped with one bathroom for 20 years defies logic, especially with three teenage girls.

Peter and Roger always had rooms of their own, although for several years, they chose to sleep in the bunk beds in Peter's room.  When Roger hit 2 1/2, we moved him into a big boy bed in his own room and he just would NOT sleep in it.  So he slept in his brother's room, on the bottom bunk, but he still played in his own bedroom.  He didn't start sleeping alone until he was five years old.  I think it was just a natural progression.

I'm interested in Millie's input as well.  She has six kids, four of them still living "at home."  I have no doubt that she has also been creative with kiddy bedroom allocation.

Anyway, that's it for me.  Now that I'm old and retired, I have a four bedroom home on an island and I'm loving it.  I already have a room ready for grandkids when they arrive, a guest room, and the fourth bedroom is actually a sewing room.  Lots of space - but no kids to fill it.  I find it endlessly amusing that when you need the space the most, you can't afford it, and when you can finally afford it, the kids are grown.


Millie writes:

In our house we have always segregated by gender, but I think it depends a lot more on the individual children than on their sexes.

The older a child is the more privacy he will want, especially if the younger sibs are still in the "putting small things in their mouths" stage. When we have bedrooms that don't allocate "evenly" (i.e., enough for everyone to either share a room or have a room of their own), we give the "lone" room to the oldest child on the theory that the oldest will be gone the soonest and then everyone can move up a rung.

In the "Full House" days we were sometimes flexible as to what, exactly, constituted a "room." In our last house there were not quite enough bedrooms but there was a massive multi-roomed basement, so once Rocky got old enough that we were sure he could get himself out of the house in case of fire or other calamity he was allowed to make over one of the pantry rooms into his own private space. Jack and Red shared a room that wasn't technically a bedroom either (no closet), but it was a funky little nook with space for a bunkbed, a bookshelf, a desk and a bunch of gear (usually on the floor).

Our girls each had a fierce need for privacy and the age span was so great that they always had rooms to themselves - though if we'd had to put them together at some point, I'd have divided the room so they'd have each had a place to retreat.

Some kids just aren't a good fit for room sharing, no matter how well they get along otherwise. If one gets sleepy at 9 p.m. and the other wants to chatter and read until 2 a.m., don't put them together if you ever want to get any peace at night yourself. On the other hand, sometimes sharing a room is the best way for two seemingly disparate personalities to bond if their habits are fairly compatible; Jack and Red are four years apart but they are inseparable, probably because they shared a room until just a year ago. They were there for each other during those dark hours that make heart-to-heart talks possible.

Of course the big question is Boys with Girls, and that can be a thorny issue. If they're close in age (or old enough to remember the other being diapered) they've already seen everything there is to see, but they will start to really understand the differences as early as 7 or 8. Some kids start masturbating at around that age as well, or even earlier. You'll have to deal with that sooner or later anyway, whether they're sharing a room or not; make it clear to everyone that activities of that nature are natural, but personal and private.

If you don't have enough space for everyone to have their own rooms (and who DOES?), see if you can make a private "nook" for each child in other parts of the house. A lone boy with three sisters would appreciate a lock box where he can store a few treasures away from girls' prying eyes, especially if you can find a place to hide it. We once cut away a section of paneling in the basement wall so Red could hide his coin collection between the studs; when the panel was replaced you could hardly see the seams, and he felt like a pirate with a hoard.

If you have a lot of room somewhere else, carve out a little personal space for each child. You can go all-out by building little "offices" in the garage using stacked boxes as walls and outfitting each cubby with a chair and a basket for books, paper and pencils, or you could just designate a corner of the sofa as their personal "spot." Everyone needs someplace to sit and dream dreams.

As for me - I have a kid getting ready to launch, and if he ever does it, I will get an office out of the deal!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.