I’m on the top bunk. Big brother Donnie has the bottom. Bigger brother Steven gets the twin on the other side of the room. Oldest brother Chris gets his own room upstairs, so does littlest (and only) sister Katie. This is all pre-arranged by virtue of birth order, something I’d later come to swear by as a parent.
In the meantime, my mattress is being launched into the air, repeatedly, because the 80′s used spring-mounted mattress frames and my older brother on the bottom bunk thinks this leg-thrusting exercise is hilarious. No one yet knows of the furniture phenomenon called “Ikea” and its fixed-slat bed frames that would have prevented this segment of my childhood from happening.
In a moment or two my dad will need to make an appearance to settle us down, because “this has gone on long enough and I have to work in the morning.” He’ll be wearing briefs and a v-neck undershirt, and nothing he can say or yell at us will overshadow the jokes we’ve planned about his attire for the moment he closes the door. We are, after all, three young boys sharing a room. As the youngest of the crew I’ll continue making jokes long after the humor has died down. Of course, raucous laughter will return the moment my older brother threatens (through a hilariously poor choice of words) that if I don’t stop it, he’ll “come up there and beat my dick off…”
I don’t remember how many years my parents put up with this particular arrangement. We rotated rooms and roommates frequently. I do know that I eventually – if briefly, and uncomfortably on a couch – enjoyed my own room not long before heading off to college where I’d re-enter the room-sharing business once again (and for good, since I’d soon be lodging with my one-day wife, an arrangement that has continued to this day).
Room sharing: It’s what I know. From my earliest memories to my present state, I’ve been a bunk member all along.
So it is, with a heart full of pride and a head full of countless silly night time memories, that Natalie and I should push our two kids into the same room once and for all. They spend nights in the same room, they nap in the same room. They wake each other up in the same room.
Of course, our previous sleeping arrangements haven’t exactly been the definition of seclusion. Ruthie’s spent the last several months in our bedroom’s walk-in closet. Before that, she and Loren were separated by about a foot of bookcase/make-shift wall. At no point has anyone in this house been more than a dozen feet or so from anyone else. That’s just life when you commit to living in small spaces with children. And it’s worked fine so far.
Even still, the full-on switch to the kids sharing a room - without “dividers” or “crib nooks” – was something that horrified us. Ruthie is a one year old (still crazy to say that), and despite flirtations here and there, we can pretty much expect a midnight waking from her on the regular. Loren, for all his positive attributes, developed a reputation as a problem-sleeper during his first year that no amount of evidence to the contrary will shake (because really, the kid is a pretty great sleeper these days, but we’ll never forget the hard times, nor will we accept that he has truly changed for good). Those two facts combined led us to believe that most nights of room sharing would go something like this:
1) Get both kids to bed in the same room (through some combination of miracle and Benadryl).
2) Ruthie wakes up in the middle of the night screaming bloody murder, as she is known to do.
3) Loren wakes up because Ruthie is screaming mere steps from his bed.
4) The children lock eyes through the dark panic of night. No one goes back to sleep. Ever.
5) Parents lose sanity, jobs, mortgages and eventually children.
But we would soon learn that the key to room sharing is not caring. Ruthie is going to wake up. She is going to wake up Loren in the process. Loren is going to wake up Ruthie. Both of them are going to wake up their parents. Maybe not every night, but often enough. And we just have to find a way get over it. Much like my own dad, I’m going to have to make a sleepy (boxer-)brief appearance here and there to tell the kids that enough is enough.
So far, everyone goes to sleep without much fanfare and, when the need arises, goes back to sleep as well – sometimes with a little help, sometimes unassisted – and we’re all well-rested for the most part. For the times when Ruthie wakes the whole house, I’ll walk into their room and simply tell Loren “it’s ok buddy, go back to sleep” and, much to my surprise, he does so almost instantly even as I stay to help Ruthie calm down again. What a difference a couple of years makes.
It all works. Thankfully. And it better, because I don’t see a scenario where we’ve got space for “own” rooms any time soon. The next room re-arrange will have more to do with the addition of baby number three (whenever that happens) in which case we’ll be shopping for a nice spring-free bunk bed.by