We Are Both Right

Following a One Kid/One Room Formula

©veralu/stock.xchng

In Amanda's house, siblings do not share a bedroom. How about in yours? ©veralu/stock.xchng

I can pretty much guarantee that my husband and I won’t be adding a fourth child to our brood. And while I have plenty of physical, emotional and financial reasons to keep that promise, my grounds are really driven by aesthetics.

We have three kids. We have four bedrooms in our house. We have no desire to move for the moment. Ergo, we will not be having any more children.

I understand that siblings sharing a room is hardly the end of the word, that millions (billions) do it all the time and grow up to live normal, happy existences, but for me, giving my kids their own room — a space that they can call entirely their own — is really important.

Houses are a public space. Our house isn’t tremendous and unless no one else is home, it’s rare that you find yourself alone in any room in the house (not counting the bathroom). I feel like giving kids their own room is giving them a haven. A place where their stuff stays safe, away from the prying hands and eyes of siblings; a place where they can sit and read or listen to music or just in silence; a place where they can just be alone. More importantly, their own room is also a place where they can keep their own mess and their own bedtime.

The funny thing is, I don’t think either of my older children would mind sharing a room with their younger brother at all. In fact, I think they would welcome it. When I was pregnant, we didn’t know what we were having. My son and daughter would fight with each other on whose room the baby would sleep in. Never mind that they were eight and six years older than their soon-to-be-born sibling. For them, the thought of having the baby in their room was terrific. (The baby, a boy, wound up sleeping in mine and my husband’s room for a little over a year, then we did some room swapping where we lost our office.)

Now that their baby sibling is a little brother (and one going through the toddler years at that), they still say they want to share a room with him, but their pleas are a bit less enthusiastic.

How does it work in your house? Did you share a room with a sibling when you were growing up?

While Suzanne’s kids don’t share a room, she wouldn’t mind it if they needed to.

Originally published October 3, 2011

Siblings Sharing a Room, Brady-Style

siblings sharing a room

There's a lot of irony in having siblings share a bedroom, but you might as well make the best of it like this sister/brother room does. Photo and design ideas provided by Project Nursery at http://goo.gl/AErgf

There’s a little bit of Brady Bunch envy still lurking within me. And part of it has to do with those big awesome bedrooms they shared, one for the three boys, and another for the three girls.

OK, so their dad was an architect. And each room looked like it was the equivalent of two oversized bedrooms with the wall taken down between them. And Mrs. Brady (or maybe it was Alice) coordinated the bedding just perfectly. It all looked so cool. And so much fun.

Remember when the boys scared the girls by projecting apparitions from the attic out the bedroom window? Or when one of the triple sets would huddle up in a bedroom to cover up some ill-fated scheme involving farm animals? Sure Greg eventually moved out into his attic bachelor pad, but it was a good setup there for a while.

I was convinced that there was nothing better than getting to share a room with a sibling, or two. And to a point, I still am.

Growing up, my sister and I shared a room for close to ten years after our brother was born and snagged the third bedroom. We even shared the same bed (a double from what I remember) for at least a few of those early years. But whether it was us singing show tunes while making the bed or throwing socks at the whirring ceiling fan while laying on our backs in bed, we learned to be a team. That came in handy when it came to covering for each other years later.

In some ways, I think that experience also primed me for parenting. I remember nights spent awake listening to my sister breathe after an especially bad bout with asthma. We were in twin beds at that point, and I would kneel beside her bed on the hardwood floors that had been cleared of carpeting that might harbor allergens, listening for consecutive breaths. My perfectly healthy babies would be under the same night watch years later.

Sharing a room with my sister wasn’t all fairy tale all the time though. We had our share of spats, and there was no place to escape to when the going got rough. But in the end, I still appreciate having those years in such close quarters. Because the Brady room ours was not.

Especially now, in the middle of this double dip recession (if the economists won’t officially declare one, you can take my word for it), I think room sharing is coming back into vogue. Families are downsizing their housing out of necessity. An ailing grandparent might need to move in. And in urban areas, where housing has always been a tight squeeze, room sharing is only becoming more commonplace.

There are ways to make it work and have fun with it. And there are times to let it go — like when children get older and privacy becomes a factor. But in the end, siblings sharing a room provides a special bonding experience that just might make things easier for them later.

Did you share a room growing up? Do your children now? Ever think you might have to tape a bed sheet to ceiling when the going got tough?

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Over at Amanda’s house, single rooms are such a priority that she and her husband gave up their longstanding home office (and a few weekends) to make room for their new addition.

Originally published October 3, 2011

Round Two: Brother vs. Sister with Mommy in the Middle

Are you a referee for your kids? Or do you let them solve sibling fights on their own? ©Julia Freeman-Woolpert/stock.xchng

I can hear my children right now in the family room and the pitch is rising by the minute. Do I really need to go down there again?

It could be that the little one is “accidentally” kicking her brother as he lays on the floor watching the baseball game.

Or maybe he’s back to tormenting her about the fly that got in before and how it’s going to eat them alive.

Whatever it is, I’m now listening to a high pitched scream. Now a cry. And some whimpering. Yep, it’s time to kick it into high gear and swoop in.

“She hit me,” says the one holding his head. “He was taking my toy,” she whines. “She wrote on my cards.” And on it goes.

Sibling rivalry? I don’t know if that’s exactly the right term. It’s not about competing against each other, like in school or sports. It’s a battle that tends to erupt between siblings who have to share the same space. And if you have more than one child, it probably needs no further explanation.

But the question at hand is whether or not a parent should intervene.

There’s something to be said for duking it out and solving your own problems. That’s the way I was raised, with one of my mom’s famous lines being: “I’m not your referee.” So my younger sister and brother and I usually had to figure out our own disputes, sometimes in hand to hand combat, but most of the time by talking it out.

Except that I’m having a hard time just letting them go at it, without jumping in to — well, referee.

Maybe it’s their age gap. Five years means a mismatched fight. Not that my son would intentionally hurt his sister, but if she gets going, I know he’ll be victim to a sneak attack. And my kids aren’t overly physical otherwise. But some days, they really manage to bring out the worst in each other.

And it’s times like those when my parental instinct kicks in — the one that tells me to do whatever necessary to stop whatever it is that’s hurting a child of mine (even if it’s another child of mine).

So I tend to get in the middle — a lot. My objectives are 1. stop the fighting and 2. sit them down to talk out the issues. They have to see each other’s side of the story and under my jurisdiction come up with a satisfactory resolution. Sometimes that’s enough time for them to cool off, other times they just wait for me to leave before starting up again.

Am I getting in the way of normal development, or do you think it really is a parent’s job to manage sibling infighting?

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Hey Amanda, when you’re done with that blood pressure cuff, can I borrow it? And do you want to trade a kid each while we’re at it — mix things up a bit?

I’m Not a Referee, Nor Do I Play One at Home

©alfredo-9/stock.xchng

When it comes to sibling rivalry, do you get involved or let the kids battle it out? ©alfredo-9/stock.xchng

A half hour. That’s how long my kids were home on their last day of school when I made them turn off the television and go to their rooms.

Why? Because they were fighting of course. Over what, I have no idea. Does it matter? If I want to stay sane, it shouldn’t.

Thirty freakin’ minutes. As I said to them on the day in question, “Are we really going to do this all summer?”

I have three children — a 10-year-old boy, an eight-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy. For all intents and purposes, let’s leave the little guy out of it for now and focus on the older two. (Although I had to stop in the middle of writing this because that sweet toddler bashed his sister in the back with a bat. But that’s a different problem.)

While for the most part they get along pretty well, they definitely have their moments when they are nothing more than oil and water. It’s natural of course — not liking the person that looks and sounds like you, the person who is your chief competitor in practically everything — television and video game selection, snack choices, the best seat on the couch, mom and dad’s love and attention, etc. etc. etc.

And sometimes, a person can rub you the wrong way by simply sitting there, not doing anything at all. Breathing. And if that particular person happens to live with you and you are with them practically 24/7, it’s not unreasonable to think that maybe they might get on your nerves a little bit.

Although when they are fighting over something silly (and trust me, at this age, it’s all silly) they might just get on my nerves a little bit.

So what do I do? Unless there is physical harm involved, nothing. And even then, unless it’s serious, they get sent to their rooms. Because if I got involved in every single one of their squabbles I would really get nothing done. And they would never learn. By letting them work out their differences on their own, I think (I hope) they are learning important conflict resolutions skills that will stay with them as they get older. (Provided they don’t think that pummeling their work colleague with a hail of Nerf gun bullets is acceptable.)

What’s your take on sibling rivalry? Do you get involved in any squabbles that your children might have?

Suzanne is more likely to get involved when her kids are fighting. I’m not sure which method — mine or hers — is less likely to raise a person’s blood pressure.

Our Two Cents: How To Prepare Your “Baby” Not to Be the Baby Anymore

So you got the "I'm a Big Sister" t-shirt. Now what? © Armin Hanisch / stock.xchngDear Amanda and Suzanne:

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

My husband and I just found out we’re expecting our second child. We’re really excited and know our daughter will be thrilled with the news when we tell her in a few weeks. Julia’s three and has been asking for a baby brother or sister constantly.

I’m just worried about how she’ll react when the baby comes home with us — considering that she’s been the center of everyone’s attention since she was born!

How did that go for you? Was there anything specific that helped you prepare your younger ones, both before and after baby arrived?

– Another on the Way

Suzanne:
Well congratulations! That is exciting news.

A little different than the first time around though, right? Your biggest worry in getting ready for baby then probably was finding the right shade of yellow for the nursery. At the most, maybe you had a pet who needed to get oriented to a baby’s cry. And now you have this sweet little one, who you can’t imagine not being the apple of your eye. The last person you think about when you finally get to sleep and the first one on your mind (and/or breathing on your face) when you wake up. You want to make sure that she’s as thrilled to welcome home the new baby as the rest of the family.

Chances are she will be. Eventually.

However you choose to prepare her for a new sibling — whether through books, talking about the baby, bringing her to a sonogram appointment, letting her feel your belly, involving her in choosing things for the baby’s room or a combination of these — keep in mind that even when she reaches the point of elation at the thought of welcoming a new baby home, she won’t really know what comes next until it really happens. And then you might be dealing with a roller coaster of emotions that could rival what you experienced during pregnancy and postpartum combined.

So basically — have no expectations. And if she turns out to be the most well-adjusted big sister ever, you can breathe a long sigh of relief. If not, you will know that she’s experiencing an absolutely normal reaction to a major change in her life. (I was going to write “her world being turned upside down” but that sounded too dramatic. Even though it could very well be how she feels.)

I thought I had it made in the shade when I found out I was pregnant the second time, only because my son was going to be five when the baby was born and wouldn’t have the same trouble adjusting as a toddler who might not be able to communicate his feelings. How wrong I was.

As much as L. participated in our planning for the arrival of his little sister, by announcing the pregnancy to our family, helping to pick her name, painting her nursery, being there for the gender reveal, and spending lots of time with her in the hospital in the days after she was born, we had no idea that he would take as many steps back in the following weeks. He hated me and my husband, or at least that’s what he told us. Hearing that was probably the hardest thing for me to digest — still to this day and he’s 8 going on 18. It came out of nowhere despite my husband’s best efforts to do special things with him every day of his leave and my reassurances that we loved him more than ever. Our pediatrician was the only one who wasn’t surprised by his reaction. The thing was, he told everyone that he loved his sister. I still don’t know what it was that made him feel divided in this way, but within a month he got over it.

In no way am I trying to scare you about the possible reactions your daughter might have around the time of your new baby’s arrival. But I hope that by knowing how wide the range of “normal” is for new siblings, you will be able to give her the time and space she might need to get used to her new role in your family.

Best wishes to all! We’d love to hear how it turns out.

Amanda:

Yay! I hope you are feeling well.

Like Suzanne said, I think the key here is to not have too many expectations. Because the thing with preschoolers is that they are funny little creatures. Not to make light of the situation, but I expect that your daughter’s reaction to the news of her new sibling will vary over the next few months depending on a lot of things — her mood, if the moon is full, if she liked the episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! on television that morning, etc.

Still, no matter how your daughter reacts to becoming a big sister — with joy, with anger or with seemingly no response at all — it’s normal and I think it’s important for you to remember that whatever she says or does, this is a big part of her emotional development.

I do think your best bet is to address the changes in your family before the new baby arrives. And this can be a lot of fun. While you may not be brave enough to solicit name ideas from Julia (while pregnant with my third I was regaled with a selection of names culled from Playhouse Disney and Nick Jr. and my kids were six and eight years old!) you should ask for her opinion on other important details like bedding, toys and even clothing. If you decide to register, bring her with you (try to keep the trip short, you can always go back later and add items if you need to) and actively ask for input. If possible, let her pick out one or two items that you purchase on the spot.

Getting her involved in the process will make her realize that she is an important, contributing member of the family and that the life of the new sibling is something she should be part of.

Another thing, I’ve found that most kids under 5 have trouble understanding time so it’s best to say the baby will arrive when the weather gets cold or around Halloween to give her some sort of frame of reference. This way you’ll avoid an endless string of “Is the baby coming today?” questions.

One baby arrives and as your family adjusts to its new dynamic, remember that your “big kid” may not be thrilled in her new role yet. Don’t be surprised if she regresses a little — asking to drink from a bottle or nurse, have bathroom related accidents, engage in “baby talk” or even ask to sleep in the crib (especially if the crib was once hers). Ask her to help you in caring for the little one – get you diapers, push the stroller or even assist in getting it dressed. It may take longer with the extra set of hands, but if she wants to be involved, welcome her efforts. (And if you are nursing, know that this sometimes makes older kids feel left out. Keep some books on hand or have a favorite movie cued up on the DVD player so you can have some cuddle time while you feed the baby.)

Some kids may welcome the new sibling with open arms and never express any discontent. Others may say hurtful things. Most fall someplace in the middle. It’s important to be patient as your little one adjusts. Encourage her to talk about how she’s feeling through words or even a picture. Try to relate — if they baby won’t stop crying, tell her that it can be frustrating for you to hear too.

Priority number one is to make sure your child feels loved and needed. Adding a new member to the family will affect Julia in a big way, but ultimately a positive one. She is getting a new sibling, but hopefully also gaining a lifelong friend.

How did you help prepare your child for a new sibling? What worked? What didn’t?

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