Jean Gillette has a cast on her arm. Details to come. For now, one from the archives.
In our first home, a tiny, two-bedroom affair, my children were born and eventually shared the nursery.
I feared that one’s noise would disturb the other, but to my surprise, my infant son’s yowling rarely seemed to both his older sister’s sleep, and her desire to sit up with the light on didn’t concern her baby bother.
Before long, they began what I christened the “baby opera.” At bedtime, my daughter and son would spend a raucous half-hour of hysterical giggling, shouting and yakking between crib and bed. They were having a wonderful time. Sharing a room seemed the most natural thing in the world to them, and I soon learned, it was just the way they wanted it.
When we found our spacious, four-bedroom home here, I began a serious, hard-sell effort in my 3- and 4-year-old about the thrill and honor of having their very own room. I found an adorable, frilly bed for my daughter. We hung pictures, we arranged stuffed animals, we divided up toys. They rejected it.
He wanted to sleep near his sister, and she wanted some company of any kind. Consistently for my daughter, bedtime was a verbal wrestling match. If I was more than 10 feet away, she considered herself “alone” and completely vulnerable to all of childhood’s nighttime demons. I yearned for a single-story house, or a visit from the Wizard of Oz to grant her some courage.
Fast-forward to my son’s fifth birthday when we brought the bunk bed up from the guest room. The minute it was stacked up, my daughter began negotiations with her brother for occupation of the top bunk.
I insisted that because they were his beds, he could at any time demand his right to the top bunk and she could either sleep below or go back to her own room. Lucky for her, my son was a classic, adoring, younger sibling void of any slumlord instincts, which might have cost her several years’ allowance.
In the top bunk, she claimed, no monsters can get her, or at least she can see them coming in time to holler for help. There was no mention of the fact that she is content to leave her brother down below for diversionary bait. She occupies the penthouse every night.
To show her noblesse oblige, she occasionally grants him the privilege of sleeping up there with her. When I can set aside my annoyance, I realize how cute they are, all curled up side by side.
They are happy. I am mostly content. I use my daughter’s frilly bed to fold and sort laundry. Getting them to sleep at night has lost most of its struggle. Still, I do find the whole situation puzzling. I grew up believing that all children long for their own room, and that having your own room was the ultimate luxury. I now have a strong sense of how parents of the ‘60s might have felt when their kids threw all hard-earned luxuries back in their faces and headed off to the commune stuffed into a rusty VW bus.
My two children are some kind of throwback to the Waltons, for crying out loud. Their comfort in sharing one small room, and sometimes one small bed, almost makes me feel like the most wasteful, self-indulgent, spoiled creature on Earth.
Pass me that box of bonbons, will you? My nails are wet.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who eventually learned motherhood is nothing if not full of surprises. Contact her a firstname.lastname@example.org.