Friday, April 8, 2016

Rooms of Their Own

They both looked a little forlorn at bedtime Sunday: my daughter all the way upstairs, a full story above the rest of us; my son tucked into bed in his usual place, but without the company of his twin sister across the room they’d shared since they were toddlers and had to vacate the nursery to make way for their baby sister.

We’ve been talking about separate bedrooms for months, and with our weekends free for the first time since Thanksgiving, we spent most of Saturday making the long-awaited switch. We muscled unwieldy furniture through narrow doorways and along stairways and tight hallways. There were beds to take apart and move and reassemble, heaping piles of clothes to relocate, and dust bunnies to sweep from the hidden corners where they’d long been hiding.

With all the heaviest lifting done, it was fun to watch the kids expand into their own spaces, arranging and rearranging toys and trinkets, putting things wherever they wanted without the potential of invoking a sibling-roommate’s ire.

Once my daughter was moved out of the shared bedroom and into her bright and solo realm upstairs, my son had an entire room to himself to organize. No more shared closet and dresser, plenty of space for spreading out the toys normally stuffed under his bed, a place for his saxophone and books.

Sharing a small bedroom had become harder the older and bigger the children grew, and the more assertive of their own individuality. There were arguments over whose mess needed picking up, who was standing in the way of the dresser when it was time to put laundry away, and who was just too invasive of the other’s personal space.

Along with the inevitable squabbling, however, there were also sweet moments of room sharing: the summer mornings when I’d find all three kids reading quietly together in one room or another, the happy playing of made-up games, the secret conversations in the dark when they were supposed to be asleep.

This move – like so many moments in the parenting saga – inspired mixed feelings for me. Even as I try to encourage my children to grow and find their own place in the world – OK, in this instance just their own place in our house – I find myself often inwardly begging them to stop growing up so darned fast! I want to nurture their growing independence and confidence, but at the same time I lament that I am, ever so slowly, moving further from the center of their lives.

This is what my mother would call giving children both roots and wings: roots so they will be secure in knowing where they come from (and where they can always return); wings so they are free to explore as they will, to find their own direction. It is a constant parental balancing act to locate that happy place between the root planting and the wing building.

My children are not babies anymore. This is no surprise to anyone, of course. But I am regularly shocked to notice how big they are, how much they are growing all the time. It seems both ages ago and yet not so long past that there were two tiny babies snugged into a crib next to our bed, then the nursery across the hall, then one more room down to make way for another baby. Now the three of them are spread throughout the house, testing their wings just a little bit, even as their roots grow strong.  

Saturday, the day of the big move, the kids were so excited about all the newness of the room shift, the novelty of all that extra personal space. Still, the older two decided to have a sleepover in my daughter’s new room. Despite their newfound liberation, it seemed, they were not quite ready to give each other up. They needed one more night in the same room. One more night of talking past lights-out, of waking up and knowing they were not alone.

Sunday they looked a bit forlorn at bedtime, but that could have just been a sentimental mother’s perception. My son had a great book to read and was soon contentedly lost within its pages. My daughter had all that space to enjoy and no brother to tell her when to turn out the light. Now, a few days in, everyone seems perfectly content.

We’d been talking about the move for months, and I know it was time. But I’ll miss the sound of their small voices floating down the stairs in the post-bedtime darkness – still the voices of children, still near enough for me to hold, still together – now that they’re in rooms of their own.  

Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her Blog: Writings From a Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the April 8, 2016 edition of the Littleton Record.


  1. Roots and wings - mixed blessings. My "baby" is soon to be 23. She still has a bedroom here. It's going to become my office and a guest room but I'm not quite ready yet.

  2. Oh, Robin, that's a whole different level of a room of her own. Hope she hasn't flown too far..