This morning I woke up about five minutes before my alarm went off to the sound of my three year old daughter calling out to her sister: “Wake Up! Wake up!” I stumbled out of bed and rushed to her room quickly. I didn’t want her to wake her older sister who still had 20 minutes to sleep before she had to rise and get ready for Kindergarten. The girls share a bedroom and when one wakes, the other one quickly follows.
By the time I reached their room, I found my youngest sitting up in a tangle of blankets, her untamable red bedhead sticking up in every direction. She was shout-whispering to her sister, who was, of course, now awake, and giggling from underneath her fuzzy unicorn sleep mask. My own sleep fog cleared and I reasoned that they may be up early, but at least they’re in good spirits.
It doesn’t always work that way. They squabble or keep each other awake at bedtime. There’s no hope in keeping their room tidy. My three year old has extra medical needs and a pump overnight provides her with nutrition she doesn’t get during the day. I worry that its loud alarms at 3 am will wake up both of them. Sometimes I think separate rooms would be more manageable. Maybe we’d all get more sleep. Maybe the extra privacy will improve their bickering.
Our first home, a sweet little house that sat on a shady Lakeside street, had four bedrooms. There was more than enough space for all of us. But last spring, my husband was offered a new job and we needed to move closer to his new company’s office. A hot real estate market made it easy for us to sell our home, but proved difficult when we went to find a new place to settle into. We ended up leasing a townhouse with two bedrooms so we could get our oldest enrolled in her new school district.
We figured they could share a bedroom temporarily. When we started our house search again this spring, we ended up finding a little Cape Cod that had two large bedrooms on the second floor and a smaller one on the first floor. I found myself advocating for the girls to continue sharing a room. I think the positives outweigh the negatives for our family.
Reinforces Valuable Life Skills
To successfully and harmoniously share a small space, all parties have to practice the art of compromise and communication. Do I love that my husband leaves all his loose change all over our dresser? Not particularly. Does he love that I collect stacks of half read books and stash them all around my side of the bed? Probably not. But we love each other, and we’re willing to compromise on the small things. Our bed gets made every day, and that makes us both happy.
My girls are learning how to let go of some of their frustrations (“She put all her stuffed animals on MY bed!”) in order to find solutions that work for the both of them. (Stuffed toys stay in their bin until bedtime when they each get to choose one to sleep with for the evening.) They have to navigate physical proximity and learn how to vocalize boundaries like: you can be on my bed with me when we read stories, but not when I’m out of the room, or: my turtle figurine collection is off limits.
Fosters Sibling Closeness
My girls are three and six, and at this stage of their lives, their age difference can make it tricky for them to share common interests or play styles. And yet… I often hear them having conversations about things that happen in their shared bedroom I don’t always witness firsthand. A play they put on for their audience of My Little Pony characters or where they decided together to stash their bucket of plastic dinosaurs.
They’ve learned to support each other emotionally; when one is upset, the other one can intuit how to provide comfort. Don’t get me wrong, there are still arguments over toys, door slams, and shrieks to “leave me alone!” but more often than not, they work through these conflicts together. When they’re a little older, I am hoping that the closeness will increase, and that they’ll share stories and secrets while bundled up in their beds during the magical twilight hour before they drift off to sleep.
Gives Us Common Space Freedom
Because the girls will be sharing an upstairs bedroom, we will be able to repurpose the downstairs bedroom into an office-playroom combo. It’ll function as an common are where we can all join together and share in the joys and trials of family life. We are lucky we get to use it in a way that suits our needs. I work from home during the week and my three year old is not yet in preschool. I am looking forward to having a space where I can tackle my to-do list and entertain her with crafts and snacks (okay, and lots of Sesame Street) at the same time.
Sometimes I think I get bogged down with the false idea of what a successful family home should look like. Social media and a culture that tells us “more is more” clouds the sensible parts of me that knows better. Of course children can (and often do!) share bedrooms! For many families, multiple children sharing a room is critical to the family’s financial, cultural, or practical needs.
My family is privileged to be moving into a home that has enough space to let us reconfigure our living arrangements as our needs evolve, but for now, I’m glad my daughters have the opportunity share a room. I’m hopeful that, when they’re older and wiser, they’ll look back at their childhood and feel grateful for the opportunity, too.