Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thoughts on Family Room-Sharing

 We got to talking with several parenting friends the other day and realized that we all shared bedrooms with our children. It wasn't something we planned, or specifically pushed for, however it just happened naturally as the course of the child-bearing years unfolded. We each reasoned that after having one kid, two kids, three kids, (and on and on for some,) all with varying nighttime needs, it is so much easier to manage them when they're all in one room! One mom friend disclosed that she never tells anyone because they think she's crazy, especially her mother-in-law, yet she can't imagine sleeping any other way! "Having my children close to me at night makes me feel happier," she said. "I like knowing where they all are, and if they need me, I'm right here."
 A dad friend  claimed that his sleep has improved significantly since he moved their 5 year old and three year old's beds into their bedroom. "I was getting up all night long to get drinks of water and calm nightmares, and fetch blankies to the point of exhaustion!"he said. "Now that I'm at arm's length away, I barely have to wake up! My kids are sleeping better, they are more secure, and everyone's needs are being met through the night. I love it!"
I agree wholeheartedly. We've always shared a bed with our babies as soon a they were born. In fact, we've never owned a crib or felt that one was necessary for us. It just didn't make sense for me to put my warm, snuggly baby far away from it's source of comfort and food. Of course this naturally evolved into snuggling our toddlers til they were ready to have their own beds, as well. Then once they got their own beds we gave them the option of sleeping in another room, if they were ready. 
As we recently moved into this house, our 7 year old decided he was done sharing a room with his 5 year old little brother, and ready for his own space. So we gave him his own room down the hallway from us, and then also gave his little bother his own space in the room next to our room. However, for the first week of this new arrangement our 7yo didn't sleep well. In fact, he climbed into bed with us every night at about 2:30am, claiming that there was a zombie arm hanging out of his closet. After two weeks of the frightening night-waking we finally realized that this arrangement wasn't going to work and moved his bed into our bedroom. Awwwww, sleep again. Except not really, because our 5 year old was still waking up every other night either having wet his bed or needing someone to cover him up with warm blankies (that he kicked off) or desperately needing a drink of water.  Our toddler was and is the only one sleeping through the night, now that he's recently been night-weaned from his yummy milk-milk! 
Now we've moved our 7yo's bed into our bedroom, then thought what the hey-and moved our 5yo's bed into our bedroom, and our 3yo is still sharing a bed with us because he's not ready to be on his own, yet. 
This is the new arrangement and I love it: (Yes, the new master bed-room is very small)
Everyone is sleeping better, everyone feels more secure and comfortable, and nighttime needs are being taken care of without much chaos. Sure it's not the most conventional method of parenting, and sure most people might say we're crazy, but it works for us! And isn't that the whole point? 
We're not going to spend these chaotic, young, parenting years living under the expectations of others--we're going to follow our instincts and do what works! Someday very soon these boys will be ready again to have their own space, and we will miss these years. Just like I miss these years:
And just like I miss this arrangement from 4 years ago:
Cedar City, circa 2009
But what about sex and privacy you might ask? And what about feeling a personal sense of space for yourself?
Easy Peasy: The bedroom is for sleeping at night, and the rest of the house is used for whatever we want after the kids are asleep. Finding creative places to "recreate" can be romantic and exciting, we've found. Once you stop thinking of the bed as the only place to have fun, the world is your canvas....or whatever.
As far as privacy goes, it's true that sometimes I see pictures like this and feel a hint of jealousy for what I am missing out on:
I mean, look at all that space! Look at the beautiful, personal touch that has gone into decorating this room! I start to think, "I want a pretty turquoise room with nice dressers, fancy pillows. and clean floors, all to ourselves!" But then I think about my children, and how their little needs don't fit into this picture. Where is the space for my sleeping toddler? Where is the pile of extra blankies and water bottles, and nighttime diapers that I'll need through the night? Where's the huge stack of library books waiting to be read while snuggling in bed with my 3 darling children? Where is my 5 year olds cute bundle of cards he leaves on the floor everyday?
This room is not my reality right now. 
My reality is the untidy, often messy, somewhat chaotic business of parenthood, with all the wonderful, warm, room-sharing-snuggling that goes with it. 

As I was searching through my picture files I discovered that over 100 of my photos have the words sleeping, bed, and snuggle titled in them. I realized that room-sharing with our children has been more than an unconventional idea-it's been a way of life worth remembering and cherishing forever. 
I sure love these kids of ours:
My favorite boys, 2010
Please tell me, friends, about your unconventional parenting ideas! Do you do anything considered out of the norm, but that totally works for you? Have you ever felt that you couldn't tell anyone because they might think your crazy? I want to know your parenting tricks!


arianne said...

We always sleep with the littlest one until the next baby comes. Then they join the kid sleep club where the kids sleep together in another room. Nobody sleeps alone. Who would want to sleep alone? You'll get your bedroom someday. I can't imagine Zadok NOT wanting his own space at age 17. In the meantime, enjoy your nighttime hugs. And thanks for making us all feel validated.

Unknown said...

I would totally do it that way if I had it to do over again. Coming from the generation where that was pretty much unheard of, I did keep hush-hush on what I did do which was, as you may well remember, play alot of musical beds during the night with you four until I got wiser and just let you all come crawl into our big bed whenever you wanted. It got pretty crowded in there and somebody often ended up down at the bottom, perpendicular to the others + sometimes it got a little damp in there too. lol Just like most dads of that era, yours left those parenting choices up to the mom but unlike alot of them would've been, he was a fantastic sport about it and just snored & snoozed through it all - ready with smiles, jokes and snuggly hugs in the morning. Your way is how it should be and America is in the minority the way we keep everybody separated like that. Kinda sad.

RJ said...

Sally, have you read the book Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn? If not, go check it out from your library ASAP! You will LOVE it! Anyway, from that book I had an ah-ha moment about making kids say please. In our home we've taught our children that saying please is one way to show you're grateful, but that being grateful is the part we want to focus on. There are many ways to help the other person feel good when they are asking someone for something. And, we teach that if it's the right thing to do to give someone something we give it to them no matter how they ask and no matter if they are grateful or not. If it's right, we give.

Recently I was told that Sophia told her babysitter, "We don't say please in my family!"


Sally Jackson said...

Arianne, I love your plan. I'm hoping a couple years down the line my boys will be ready to all pile into one room!
Mama, I don't remember but I'd love to hear more stories!
Rachel, I am putting that book on my list!Sounds like an interesting read!!