While my daughter has spent most of her nine years complaining that she doesn't get to share a room with anyone, my sons have spent the majority of their lives complaining that they do. We've tried to mix it up at times by having our daughter share with one or the other of her brothers, but after one night they would complain vociferously about the other making "breathing noises" (how dare they) and then it was back to the norm. Until last weekend.
The boys' pleas for their own space have gradually become more pronounced but it wasn't until we saw our eighth-grader's feet dangling off the edge of his bunk bed that my husband and I decided a change might actually be in order. That and the fact that the piles of guitar books, sports gear, books, baseballs, trinkets and trash were all multiplied by two, making it difficult to find them in their own beds sometimes.
So with a lot of wrangling and a little fanfare, Nick moves into the guest room this weekend and my three kids all officially have their own rooms.
I know they're bubbling with excitement at the prospect of all that liberty and legroom. But truthfully I'll miss the way it's been. I think there's something special about having to share space with a sibling and I'm sorry our daughter has missed out on whatever character trait that builds (though having two older brothers builds a different kind of character, to be sure). Familiarity may breed contempt, but it also builds a friendship. We really get to know a person living in close quarters.
Nick knows, for instance, that Ben values orderliness and routine. He knows that his brother motivates himself by hanging inspiring photos and quotes on the ceiling where he can look at them every night. He knows that Ben loves the Sunday comics that adorn their walls and aspires to both humor and art. That Ben's rock collection is heavy enough to sink a small ship but that each one can be traced back to a particular location and will evoke emotion in his voice as he tells you why it was the perfect souvenir. Of course, any visitor to their room could tell by the ample bookshelves that Ben loves to read, but only his big brother knows his favorite genre of books and has listened patiently while Ben, flashlight in hand, read the good parts out loud from his bunk above.
Ben, on the other hand, knows that Nick has a hankering for conversation just after the lights go out, and can be relied on to dish out all the middle school news as they drift off. He knows Nick lies on his bed and visualizes himself making touchdowns, and that he'll always be the first out of bed before the alarm clock sounds. He knows Nick sometimes gets headaches that require noisy brothers to tiptoe and that Nick's breathing doesn't come easy during allergy season. Ben remembers the days when a much younger older brother sweetly reassured him that he didn't have to be afraid of the dark because the Bible says God is with us always — so that must mean even when the lights are out.
My friend once said she wanted her sons to share a room because she believed it was important that her boys hear the sounds of each other breathing. I think I know what she means. It's an intimacy that creates a bond that creates a friendship that lasts a lifetime.
I'm glad my boys have had the chance to share a bedroom for most of their childhood, even if now it's time for them to create their own breathing space.
Maybe they can just leave the doors between their rooms open for a little while.