Monday, October 7, 2013

on boys sharing rooms

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" -Psalm 133:1


Beds made, trundle tucked, this is NEVER how their room looks...

Recently, so many people have asked me how our family manages three rowdy boys sharing a room, that I thought I would answer in one broad stroke of a blog post.

We made a conscious choice about five years ago to put all three boys together. There have always been spare bedrooms available, and even though at different times we have considered splitting them up for the sake of sanity at bedtime, we have always found ourselves recommitted to all three sharing one room.

We like the accountability it builds in their relationships with each other, the bonding that results from sharing a space, and the forced friendship that blossoms in the middle of the mess. This little band of brothers was formed by God, and we trust He has woven their destinies together for a great purpose, so we throw them all in a room together and pray for grace.

But grace is hard for kids to find without some neon signs and solid boundaries.

There were many nights, early on in the shared room experience that I thought they might kill each other, or that I might die in the crossfire. Some nights I wanted to strap them to their beds and tape their mouths shut so they would finally go to sleep. But I have a pretty strong stand against child abuse, so I never went through with it.

It is maddening when you know that your children's foolishness will mean they will be tired and grumpy the next day (which will really cost you), and you feel powerless to change any of it. Every parent learns in the first week of their baby's life this truth: no one can force a child to go to sleep.

When we speak with our boys about the shared space, we speak of it as a privilege. Sharing a room is the privilege of children who can be together and still behave appropriately.

We are often so very, very sorry they must be split up when they have not heeded the first warning about being quiet. It is really so unfortunate that they have chosen not to stop spitting on each other across the room, or punching each other in the stomach for laughs, and therefore must go lie in their sister's pink room, on the hallway floor, or in my room until everyone else is asleep.

They do have other options when they receive their first (and only) warning.

If one of them knows he is particularly and hopelessly out of control, he can opt to go lie in my bed until he thinks he can lie still and be quiet.

If they aren't tired enough to go to bed, they are welcome to help with the nightly chores. There are dishes that need washing, laundry that needs folding, and some boys have even decided they would rather rake leaves than lie quietly in their beds.

For about two years, these options were all novel and fun. And frankly, I decided I could handle tired kids the next day since all the chores were neatly taken care of while I sat on the sofa reading.

But I have noticed lately (it may the consequence of some maturity developing) that many nights, they seem to prefer to lie quietly in their beds than opt otherwise.

We seem to be moving beyond the foolish insanity.

I am grateful we did hang in there all these years, holding a standard of self-control high, graciously loving monkeys at bedtime, trying our best to swallow our frustration, and letting them find, by the process of elimination, that a cozy bed is not a prison and that Mom and Dad are not the prison guards.

And I am grateful that they want to be together. Because it is good and pleasant for them to dwell in that tiny room in unity.

And for this mama's heart, good and peaceful bedtimes even border on the miraculous glory of God....

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