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Challenge: Raising Siblings

A Space of Their Own: Helping My Children Find Their Version of Home

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I remember well the days that I would come home from school, unpack my bookbag and immediately head upstairs to listen to music on my boombox. With my back against my tiny twin bed in the room I shared with my sister, I’d scribble lyrics in a notebook, stopping only intermittently to pause and rewind a bridge or chorus to make sure I got the words right. I was surrounded by everything I knew and loved and was utterly comfortable, if ever that environment existed. In our room, knew I could hang glow-in-the-dark stars, boy band posters, and cheerleading banners without fear of being reprimanded for marking up the walls. I could spend hours with my sister writing on our closet with a blackout pen and my parents encouraged that kind of creativity, never stepping in to smooth out my dust ruffle or straighten up the curtains.

In many ways, that room was my cocoon and my comfort, all of my childhood. While my parents were great about not worrying too much if someone put their feet on the coffee table or dinged up the dining room table by accident, my room was truly where I was allowed to be myself, and as such, I spent many of my nights, well into high school and beyond, at home with my family. While other friends sought to get as far away from theirs as possible on the weekends, I wanted to be around my parents and siblings, and I especially wanted to hang out with them in that little carpeted haven I’d created for myself.

As I grew older, I sought to replicate and recreate that same sense of comfort. I made my college dorm as homy as possible, even convincing my roommate to help me sew little makeshift cafe curtains to add some nostalgic charm. This urge became even stronger when I had children of my own. Most women nest when they’re in the late stages of their pregnancy. I did as well, leaning heavily into the idea of carving out a special spot in our little three-bedroom cottage for our babies to play, learn, grow and sleep in. I wanted to make it simple enough to allow them to put their own stamp on it eventually, but decorated enough to feel intentional and cozy. I wanted plenty of space for them to put bookcases, lamps, rugs and everything else that makes it feel like a personal space.

When my daughter was three, we transitioned her from her baby nursery to her big-girl room. I let her help with almost every decision and as such, it feels very much like a toddler’s play space and less like an adult’s version of one, which is what I intended. She has pink and purple polka dot stickers all over her walls and ceiling, because those are her favorite colors. A rainbow tassel streamer hangs from her window shutters. She has her baby doll beds and wardrobes in there, a colorful couch from my old bedroom, and an oversized bean bag chair she convinced me to buy in the store after listing off all of the reasons why she absolutely needed one beside her bed. This past fall, we added two pink bookcases, a snuggly foot rug, and a picture of a little girl swinging on her wall, which she saw and immediately claimed as a portrait of herself.

Is every inch beautiful, neat, clean and put-together? Absolutely not. If I had it my way, it would be decorated to the hilt in farmhouse chic whites and grays, with a touch of mauve to bring in femininity. I’d store all of her toys in an old wooden crate to add rustic charm and she’d never leave her books scattered around like a tornado just went through. Yet, I had my chance to create the bedroom of my dreams. I did it when my parents built our forever home, when I was two. I lived in that special spot for 20 years, until I married and made other rooms of my own. I’ve had my childhood bedroom and now I get to allow her to make the same choices as I did.

She’s free to decorate it, spend time in it, and grow into it as she likes, with a respectable degree of autonomy. I hope it becomes the kind of hangout she wants to come home to. I hope she feels as safe, special and comfortable there as I did in mine. A room is a small thing, in the grand scheme of things, and her’s isn’t big. Still, it’s a rite of passage to claim a spot of your own, and it’s been a sweet process to watch her transform it into a spot that matches her bright and vibrant personality. Will her tastes change as she gets older? Sure. But for now, we’re reveling in the cartoon character bedspreads and the treasure box of costume jewelry perched on her nightstand so she can see it when she sleeps. This is a sweet and sacred time for her and if this room can be even a tiny part of her beautiful journey, I hope it’s everything she wants it to be and more.

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