Growing up a middle child with two brothers, I had to share a lot of things: the TV remote, the play fort in our backyard, and my parents’ attention, to name a few. But there were a lot more things I got to have of my own. Being the only girl had its perks. I had my own clothes, my own toys, even my own room. From the time my little brother was out of a crib – which was around kindergarten for me – I had my own room.
I mean, it makes sense at some point to separate boys and girls, and eventually the boys were happy to be rid of me. When I was in 3rd grade, we moved to a bigger house with four bedrooms and a bonus room. That meant everyone could have their own space PLUS a game room. It was a great setup for a while. Then the strangest thing happened… My brothers gave up their solo spaces to share the bonus room. That’s right, they had the option for privacy but chose to share. That always baffled me!!…Until I had kids of my own.
We have four children – one girl and three boys – and a three bedroom house. When the 3rd was born, my older two got their first room-sharing experience at ages one and three. It came with plenty of challenges, including the 3-year-old waking her brother whenever she got up and the 1-year-old throwing toys from his crib to her bed when she was trying to sleep. For several years I would put my daughter down for a nap in my bedroom so everyone could actually get some rest. Oh, and did I mention my son cries in his sleep? (Thankfully this habit subsided as he grew, but at 5 1/2 he still does it from time to time!) But on the whole, their sharing a room was glorious. They played together constantly, they would sing to each other at night, and when my son got a twin bed, I put them close enough together that I could rub both their backs at the same time. They were absolutely best friends.
When the time came for my daughter to start kindergarten (read: wake up way earlier than the boys had to), our special gift to her was something I loved growing up: her own room. She got a brand new fancy big girl bed! Glittery butterflies on the wall! A sheer canopy that
I wanted to keep for myselfwas super girly! Her new room was little girl heaven. We had a grand reveal, and she loved it! That is, until bedtime. When she realized she would be sleeping in there while the baby moved in with her BFF brother, she cried. “You and Daddy have each other, and my brothers have each other. I’m the only one who has to sleep alone!” she moaned. (That was actually a pretty good point I had not considered…)
The greatest day in my daughter’s short life came last year when her brothers got bunk beds. They came with new mattresses, so we took an old one and slid it underneath as a make-shift trundle. My daughter wanted to sleep there every night. She was still the only one in school, so we made her stay in her room during the week, but she couldn’t wait for Friday when she could be with the boys.
One Friday night a terrible storm came through. The thunder was so loud it shook the house. Nothing puts me to sleep better than a good thunderstorm, but this one kept me up half the night. I kept waiting for my daughter to come crawl into bed with us, as was her custom anytime there was a storm (or fireworks, or a neighbor playing basketball at night, or crickets, or any other sound), but for some reason she didn’t. The next morning, I asked the kids if they heard any of the thunder during the night. My daughter said, “Oh yes, it was so loud! It woke me up.” The boys piped up that they had woken too. Shocked, I asked why no one came to my room. My daughter very simply replied, “I didn’t need to, Mommy. I had my brothers.“
Since our 4th child was born, the previously weekend-only room-sharing situation has become semi-permanent, as the baby is also prone to sleep-crying, and my daughter prefers to stay with the older boys. (Although, I just showed her this instagram from Jen Hatmaker, and she is starting to fall in love with the idea of “her own private baby.”) Either way, my kids will be sharing rooms for the foreseeable future. Even if we do move to a bigger house sometime soon, I am willing to bet my children will choose sharing even if given an option.
In this modern HGTV age of “bigger is better” and “more for the money” and “room to grow,” I know I’m not the only mom who feels like confining my three kids into a 10×10 bedroom is some special form of child abuse. As parents, we always want our kids to have more and better than what we had. However, I have to ask, is more always better? In defense of the room-sharers of the world, maybe instead of more space, our kids need more quality time. Maybe it’s better to have more late-night memories and more comfort during a thunderstorm. I think my brothers were onto something back when they gave up their space in favor of each other. For all the challenges room sharing brings, nothing can ever replace the more and better of lifelong friendships.