"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Monday, February 27, 2012

to room alone or not to room alone ...

that's always been a question.

Our bedroom capacity is not huge.  We moved to this house trading indoor space for outdoor space.  When we transitioned to four girls, we wondered if we should squeeze or finally give into Celia's wildest dream ... her own room.

Our master is on the main level and there are three moderate sized bedrooms upstairs.  The basement is finished and we'd turned it into a movie viewing area for our Friday family movie nights as I preferred not to have a television commanding attention in our living room.

We decided to make the switch.  Upstairs bedrooms:  three girls in one, one in the other, and two boys in the third.

This is the only picture I have of the three girl arrangement and none of Celia's room as the set up did not last very long.

She was unhappy. 

It was a funny thing.  She had everything she wanted.  But now, there was irritation and ownership and disengagement.  She's an avid reader ... I couldn't keep up with her if I tried... and she just — disappeared with her books.  With her permission, I tell this experience from a little over a year ago.

I stepped into her room one night to say my good nights and a book lay across the end of her bed.  It was popular literature that friends had recommended at school but a book that I knew to be highly adult themed.  I asked her about it and she burst into tears and said she'd been so disturbed in chapter one but it had been too hard to put down until chapter two.  She expressed how difficult living alone made making certain decisions.  Like actually having the discipline to turn out the light, putting down a "good" or "not so good" book, getting up in the morning, keeping her space uncluttered ... and on and on.

We talked at length and among other things, it came to light that there were good points about having the responsibility of one's own space ... but sometimes, the not so good can be out-weighing.

I stewed over what to do as a mother with so little space available.  

I lay awake remembering life as the oldest daughter and listening to the laughter of the other girls off in the room they shared. I recalled coming home from college as an engaged-to-be-married-in-the-morning gal, and stopping by that bedroom that had always been shared.  I stood outside the door listening to the companionable conversation over the excitement toward the next day's wedding festivities.  I'm certain the camaraderie wasn't always there but it had, in the long run, created an unbreakable bond.  A bond I felt a slight sad little tug of outsider "ness" in the presence of, most probably because I'd had my "own space" for longer than I had not. 

In the light of dawn, I spoke with Celia again relating my memories and she asked to be moved back in.

And Newel created an office of her abandoned room to which I have decided every man should have his own space in a home for sanity's sake :)  But that's another line of thinking for another day.

I don't have a picture of all four of my girls cramming into that little bedroom for the last year, but they have made it work.  Yes, there were plenty of adjustments and moments of wound licking, but they all seemed generally happier.  They managed Eliza's transition from crib to bed flawlessly and listening to Eliza tell each sister goodnight in the darkness was well worth the switch.

And of course, with baby #7 on the way, I'm once again looking at re-arrangement.

Everyone has to shift to make room for one more body.  I've faced the only solution.  Move the girls to the finished basement. Since we know we'll be 5:2, baby girl #5 has prompted Project Dormitory.  That's what I've been working on and I wish we'd done this so much sooner. It's heaven.

The television has been moved up to the living room.  Not my favorite but more monitor-able. Especially with teens who want weekend movie night gatherings with friends without feeling silly over motherly interruptions in a basement every few minutes :)

These guys, the couches and television stand, are going the way of Craig's list.  And my finished basement is quickly accommodating four beds and one crib — for as long as it is needed.

And if the bright beach-y fabric selections for bedding don't warm my heart a little here at the end of February ... Stepping down the stairs to kiss each head goodnight down the line and finding girls big and small, braiding each other's hair last night ...

Well, that warmed me more than a little. 


  1. Can't wait to see the finished product. We've had quite a number of room changes-it sounds like our houses are set up set up the same...except one of our bedrooms upstairs is tiny. And we had the same situation-I moved my middle son out of the bedroom he shared with 2 brothers, to an area in our basement to give it a try-I hated it-felt like he was distanced and alone way too much all by himself and when we decided to move him back up (we created a partition in the bedroom to give him some privacy from the two younger ones) he didn't fight us at all at moving back up so I knew he wasa little relieved to not be on his own.
    Love the beachy fabric collection!

  2. I love shared bedrooms. We had a similar experience with our oldest boy. His 'own' room lasted about two months.

    And a baby girl....luckeeeeeeeeee!

  3. Such a sweet story! It's refreshing to hear of children feeling convicted with worldly reads.They are everywhere, even on school mandatory reading lists. If your daughter is feeling convicted, means the parents are doing a fine job! Plus, HOW FUN it would be to room with 3 sisters! Love the fabric1

  4. We have this issue to iron out still. Two kids' bedrooms, five kids. 2 girls, 3 boys. The smaller bedroom is papered in green and red plaid, the bigger one yellow and purple with sweet peas. DANG. Where is that real life Photoshop when you need it?? I appreciate hearing about Celia's experience with her own room. Thomas has the same conflict...wants his own space, doesn't want to be alone. I hadn't considered this perspective, so thanks for letting me see this.

  5. Awwww, I really love this! LOVE it! It sounds like the perfect set-up for your family :)

  6. In our two bedroom apartment, all five kids share a room. Last year we vacationed in a four bedroom house and two bedrooms went un-slept in. The kids even hauled a mattress upstairs so they could all sleep in one room together. It really is wonderful. Congratulations on making the magic that matters!

  7. We are re-thinking room situations in our house as well. In a different direction, though, and I'll be curious to see what happens. We have 4 still at home in a 4 bedroom house. (One for us, 3 for the kids. So our 16 year old has his own room, and our 11 year old son, then the 2 11 year old girls share a room. We are def entering the pre-adolesenct stage and the girls are having a hard time being together ALL of the time (homeschooling) and sharing their space as well. I've decided that when we arrive in Oregon the boys will share a room. The 16 year old is rarely in his room anyway as he does go to public school. And this way the girls will be able to be together if they like, but have the option to get away too if needed. I do think being born a triplet brings some advantages and some real disadvantages as well...

  8. Oh, we have such similar lives...it is a little scary! When we moved here 2 years ago, the plan was to have the kids spread evenly in the rooms - 2 in each eventually....but with a newborn that slept with mom and dad that left our oldest daughter alone. That did not go well. She repeated over and over how much she wanted her own room and then every night at bedtime....she would worm her way into someone's room. We finally realized that it wasn't working out....so we ended up with the 2 boys in a room and all 4 girls in a room. They lived like that until about a month ago....oldest daughter again decided she wanted to try her own room....shifting began....and it has turned out that both my oldest and second oldest daughters have gotten their own room....because the little girls didn't want to move. Anyway, these 2 girls used to fight,fight, fight....interrupted by fits of giggles and fun....no in between emotions. So, the boys moved to the big room and kept the 2 little girls. Now the older girls take turns sleeping in each other's rooms each night. And, honestly, they rarely fight anymore...even though for most intents and purposes they are still sharing a room! Good luck...can't wait to see how it turns out!

  9. Marlowe, what a beautiful post! And congratulations on #7! That is fabulous. I love the story you shared, and I am amazed at how beautiful you make your home. I have so much to learn from you!


  10. marlowe, a new baby brings so many changes..i think this will be wonderful for the girls!! will you make the former girls room into a nursery for awhile till the new baby is older? i love how you solve problems...make the decision and make it happen!! hugs, cathy