February 14, 2011

Roommates: Moving Kids into the Same Room

This past Valentine's Day weekend we moved my two daughters into a room together. We'd been planning it ever since my wife announced that, through some miracle of god, she'd found matching bedspreads—ones with purple stripes, white polka dots and just the right amount of "on-sale" to satisfy every member of this family.

For months I had been preparing both girls for the move. I'd done all the planning and legwork. Packed boxes overflowed with books and toys. Anna's new bed frame and mattress (purchased weeks in advance) sat quietly in our basement waiting to be united in matrimony by the fine services of my brothers-in-law. I even spent three days carefully hand-selecting a playlist of inspiring songs to rock out to during the move (like "Move This" and "Bust a Move" and "The Best of Hootie and the Blowfish").

I'd planned on five hours of heavy lifting, vacuuming, cleaning, unpacking and vacuuming again because someone "didn't do a good enough job the first time." I'd planned to lose my suit closet to the newly named "Girls' Closet" and let my homeless suits find temporary shelter in the basement. I'd planned to stay out of the way as my wife and her sister dressed the beds in their new polka-dotted attire. I'd even planned a 5-minute break so I could check #ClooneyWatch on Twitter. In fact, I'd planned so well we finished in half the time.

When the final pillowcase was added, the girls bounced off the walls with excitement. My wife, a proud Mom, looked on as her two kids who were about to embark on a journey of a lifetime—one my wife once shared with her sister and one I once shared with mine. And I, a proud Dad, stood in the corner … compulsively crying.

For months I had been preparing both girls for the move. Apparently what I didn't realize was that I hadn't prepared myself.

The night before I teared up when I swayed with Anna in our rocking chair for the last time, patting her back, softly singing "Tomorrow" in her ear, setting her in her crib and watching as she turned on her mobile with her butt (our ritual). I teared up when I walked into Ella's room to kiss her goodnight for the last time and stepped on a piece of painfully rigged play food (our ritual).

After we'd moved all the furniture I teared up as I took inventory of the room. I couldn't help but think back over the past four years. I remember when my parents bought us the crib that not only hugged our kids to sleep every night, but also became the room's centerpiece. Now, instead, two identical twin beds rest against the wall like misplaced Tetris pieces. I looked at the pictures my in-laws helped us hang. Now they sit on the floor, replaced by tall bookshelves and dressers with mirrors. I can recall the first night we let Ella sleep in the room (I panicked every second) and the first night we let Anna sleep in the room (I panicked every other second).

I'd like to tell you that my tears were big, manly tears, the kind that generally only appear on men's faces after our favorite sports teams win championships or we eat extremely hot wings or we get head-butted in the crotch. But they weren't. They were soft, gentle tears of memories that I'll hold dear forever.

As the clock struck 10 (well past their bedtime), I teared up again as I tucked my girls into their big twin beds, saying goodnight to them for the thousandth time—but for the first time all over again. I shut their door and slowly walked downstairs with  my heavy heart dragging behind. My wife gave me a giant hug and said, "It'll be OK," which is her polite way of calling me a wuss. And maybe I am. Who knows. For the past two years these every-night traditions enriched my life. And yet, in the blink of one Valentine's Day weekend, they were gone.

Just as I was about to tear up one last time, I could hear two little voices peeking through the monitor. They weren't crying. They weren't talking. They were singing. They were singing "Tomorrow" all on their own. They sang for nearly 15 minutes. For some reason this put me at ease and really did let me know that it'll all be OK. It'll all be OK.

And if it isn't, at least I can drown my sorrows in a little #ClooneyWatch.

Would love to hear any stories you might have about moving your kids in together or what worked for you when you were a kid and roomed with a sibling. Feel free to leave it in the comments section.

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Jason Martin said...

My wife and I are facing the situation of putting our newborn (due in July), after he/she is done sleeping in our room, in the same room as our soon-to-be 2 year old. Any advice out there on how to help our 2 year old adjust to life with a very young and crying roommate?

Sharon S said...

Hi Brian....you are such a sweet dad. :-) Our boys began bunking together as soon as our youngest was too bug for the bassinet. We had the toddler bed and the crib in their room. When we moved into our current home (which has more bedrooms than our 2-bed starter home had), each boy picked their own room. It was not until last year, though, at the ages of 12 and 10 (and after we lived here for 7+ years!) that they actually began sleeping in their own rooms. I loved they shared at night even though they each had their "own room" for every other intent and purpose. My younger one would still like to share, I am convinced, but his older brother will have none of it. :-)

Sharon S. said...

*too big, too

Amanda Hoving said...

Ah, you big wuss.

Really, you are a sweet Dad, and I understand the tears. My girls shared a room at our old house, and my boys share a room in our new house. It's been really fun to see them grow in their sibling relationships. They may let go of you a *little,* but it's worth it to see them become friends with each other.

hinglish said...

I've been enjoying your blog (and back-blogs) for a couple of weeks.

You make very good Tetris references. There's something Dave Barry-ish about your writing style! (That's a good thing, I think.)

Ruby Barnett said...

You are a terrific father! What a timely post! We’re close to making the transition to both kids in one room, so it’s nice to hear what others have done. Our oldest son just turned 2 and our youngest is 3.5 mos. Youngest isn’t sleeping through the night yet, so we haven’t transitioned yet, but I imagine they’ll be in one room this summer. My plan is to get the youngest sleeping through the night before they share because the oldest isn’t the greatest sleeper and he would DEFINITELY NOT sleep through a crying baby (heck, he can hear him in the other room sometimes). Wish us luck – I’m sure it’s not going to be the easiest of transitions, but I’m sure the boys will enjoy it eventually.