He asked this question every day for about a year. And in my heart I wondered if we had made the right choice. Maybe it would be too hard on him to share a room with his two younger brothers. Maybe all the friends and family members that were insisting my then-six-year-old would need his own space were right…
But, what if they were wrong?
You see, we have three boys, ages 7, 4 and 3. And, we make them share a bedroom.
Yes, I know. Someone call Child Protective Services. In this decade it’s considered a crime that they don’t each have their own Pottery Barn decorated space to express their personalities and to privately process their lives.
But, they don’t.
It’s not that we don’t have the room. We could have worked it out so not everyone had to share. Yet, we chose not to.
Here are three simple reasons why:
1. We want them to be close. Sure you can’t force your children to get along with each other. But, there is something about having to sleep within the same 12 by 12 square foot space that makes you “in it together.”
We get the most flak about our rooming situation from people concerned that our introverted oldest son needs his own space. Yet, I truly believe that giving him his own room would allow him to physically and emotionally grow up separated from his younger siblings.
The sharing situation has forced them to become better friends. I understand that they are young still and things change. But, my thinking is that they’ll be more likely to stay friends if they start now. Expecting them to suddenly become buddies when they are older, if they’ve never been close, seems unrealistic to me. They play together. They talk before they go to sleep at night. They even wake up and chat in the morning before getting up. There is no mistaking the fact that they are brothers.
I won’t sugar coat our transition. It has taken some adjustment. When we first moved my youngest into the room with his two older brothers he was only two so he would occasionally cry at night or wake up earlier than they would. But, after a few months, they adjusted to sleeping through noises of every kind and he adjusted to sleeping on his older brother’s schedule.
2. Sharing a Room Adds Accountability. Let’s get real: it’s a whole lot easier for kids to get into things they would be better off not getting into when they have a room of their own. Without that “privacy,” our hope is to raise children who better understand that their actions have an impact on others–“no man is an island” as they say. If they leave things a mess, everyone suffers when they step on the Lego pieces in the middle of the floor. If they forget to throw away something that smells bad…again…they all learn the important lesson.
We want to teach our boys to look out for each other’s best interest. We hope that they’ll also learn how to lead and guide each other with the occasional, “Man, you shouldn’t be doing that” or, “Why do you have this?” as they get older.
We do try to find ways for them to each have their own space. We try to emphasize that beds aren’t community property. But, they’ll never have the opportunity to come home, close the door, and do what they want without anyone else knowing what that is.
3. Having Your Own Room is Not A Real Life Scenario for Most. I grew up with my own room and had quite an adjustment when I got to college and suddenly had to learn how to function in shared space. After school, even though I remained single for the next decade, roommates were a part of my normal life because, frankly, it’s expensive to live alone! Getting married: Yep, one more roommate I had to adjust to.
For most, having your own private space is a luxury that ends after high school graduation. For our boys, it’ll be a luxury they may only know if they move out and earn enough money to live alone. I’m hopeful that someday their college roommates, wives, or roommates will thank us for teaching our boys how to share a space well.
Even though they only have one room, I have worked hard to make certain that it’s a room that they all feel comfortable in. Last year, I made the room over in a Lego theme, since that’s what they are all into (You can check out my DIY Lego Room at this link). And, we moved all of their toys to a community play room to keep our sleep time and our play time a little bit more separate (and to allow my older son the freedom to play while his younger brothers nap in the afternoon.)