“I can tell.”

She’s so smart, our girl. She can come in to the living room after bedtime and ask us questions about the nature of sand and waves–deep, serious, questions that her teacher could not answer in the moment our daughter posed them in class… and she can confide.

“I’m a little worried, because I can tell that my friends have a new friend to replace me. I can tell, Mom. I don’t think they’re going to care about me when I’m gone.”

What do you do, exactly, when your 9-year-old daughter can encapsulate, with eloquence and clarity, the sum of nearly all my fears?

“People keep going, honey. They make new friends, but that doesn’t mean you’re not there. You’re just not in front of them.”

As I said to my husband: we are so lucky to have a child who can sense, who can put words to her feelings and then actually use her voice to express them, so that we can help her.

Or so that she can help us.

the kids want their own rooms. now.

ImageMy husband and I each shared a bedroom with our respective brothers until we hit middle school, as we each grew up in small houses. We have figured sharing a room was fine for our kids too, until we moved again and our daughter was a bit older.

We have the space for them, but it’s been infinitely easier, on me, for them to share a room. It’s a smaller amount of space for them to maintain, one less room for me to manage with cleaning and laundry and linen changing, all of that stuff. 

And thanks, I think, to the two of them sharing a room, they have become a very cohesive unit. A team. It’s fun to watch. They do get on each other’s nerves, but it’s relatively infrequent. I love hearing them giggle at night (even when I’m yelling across the house, “Go. To. BED!!!”) I love hearing them in the morning, chatting quietly with each other, him asking questions, her answering, or vice versa, on whatever it is that’s on their minds. 

But they’re getting older. Their schedules matched quite perfectly for about three years. But now, our daughter can stay up far later and remain well rested. She loves (and needs) to read, sometimes late into the night. And our son has deferred to his sister’s design and aesthetic sense for quite some. He seems to want to assert himself a bit more. I’ve noticed him setting up “displays” of his Star Wars characters in random places in the house, because he has no space in the room he shares with his sister. 

I’ve been ruminating on all these things, but figured when we moved into a new state and home, we’d separate the kids into their own bedrooms. We could ride out another several months.

But others have been ruminating, too.

I got home from a 1/2-weekend getaway with a couple girlfriends yesterday. My husband and our kids had about 30 solid hours together, jam packed with fun and adventure, and lots of observation time by my husband. And my husband told me, after the kids had gone to bed, “Just noticing them this weekend… I think they want their own rooms. Maybe we should do this before school starts.”

School starts in 8 days. 

Gears started turning immediately. We would need to rearrange three rooms–a bedroom, a guest room, and a playroom/multi-purpose room–in the next several days (because of course they should be in their new rooms at least by Saturday, two have two solid nights in their new space before the first day of school, right? I like the idea of them waking up gently on Sunday morning, the last day of summer vacation, in their new space, enjoying the start of a new era… Ok, maybe I’m projecting a little.).

Several days, three rooms. Lots and lots of toys and books.

I grilled my husband on whether the kids knew that he thought we should give them their own room. Did the kids say they wanted their own rooms? What precipitated this? Were they fighting, were they just wondering about the new house we’ll eventually have? What is their motivation? I needed answers.

Apparently, he witnessed a lot of our pair getting on each other’s nerves over the 30 hours he spent with them. Now, I have tended to just let that ride, remind them to be nice to each other, tell them to take a ten-minute break from one another, and move on. But my husband also had some one-on-one conversations with our daughter while I was away.

“She’s really excited about moving, about new space, a new house, a new pet… I don’t know, maybe because she’s heard us talking about it. I guess it’s a good thing, but she’s really thinking about it.”

She’s restless. If we give them their own rooms now, we can give them each a taste of that change that our daughter seeks. Channel that restlessness.

I suggested which room would work for our younger son. I started thinking about how to bring up the subject with them, hoping that our son would like our decision on what room he’d have… I started imagining how to set up the playroom to be the new guest room, hoping my mother-in-law, our most frequent guest, would like it… I woke up thinking about this. (I’m weird.)

As I gave the kids breakfast this morning, I asked, “Hey, would you two like your own rooms now?” They both nearly spit out their cereal in their haste to nod vigorously and say “yes!” 

I asked the next question. “Well, [Son,] would you like the guest room? You like to go in there anyway when you want to have quiet time.” He nodded, chewing, saying “Mmm hmmm!!”

Our daughter (perfectly fine with her default room assignment, thank God, which I learned, they call the “Rainbow Room” because of the colors of the curtains) asked where Grandma would sleep when she visits. I explained we’d turn the playroom into a guest room. Then it hit them. 

“What about all our toys?” 

“Well, you’ll need to choose your favorite toys and you’ll keep them in your own rooms. Anything else, we’ll store or give to younger children who would like to play with them. And if you have your own rooms with your toys in them, what will you do?”

Chorus: “Put them away when we’re done!”

And so, they finished their breakfast and got dressed for the day. And they are now sorting through toys into “keep” and “store/give away” piles. It’s been a half hour, and they’re still sorting. 

I should go help. I will, soon. But for now, it’s really nice to listen them work so well together.

And I need to get away more often. For all my skill at maintaining order and routine and a sense of calm, it is incredibly gratifying when fresh eyes see what I see, but shake things up for the better.

 

 

home in time

And we’re back.

We spent the beginning of summer vacation at my parents’ home. It was a good trip. But it was hard. The kids missed Daddy, who could only be there for the last three of the 11 days. And they miss their cousins already.

Our son had a harder time than his big sister. Once a day, he cried–missing Daddy, or, preemptively mourning the end of our visit, missing his cousins. Yesterday, the day we left, he sobbed right after his cousins left. He calmed down, but during the ride to the airport, sobbed. I’ve never seen him so overwrought. I tried to tell him to think about Skype-ing his cousins, showing them his room, his toys… It didn’t help.

After half an hour, I instructed: “Okay. At this point, I can’t do or say anything to make you feel better. You have to take deep breaths and calm down, or you’re going to wear yourself out.”

(I felt like a jerk for saying that. Who tells a six-year-old boy to just calm down? Me.)

His sister, two and a half years older, didn’t have the same reaction. She moved through the transitions from her cousins’ to our own departures with great maturity. But she wanted everybody to visit us in our home. “I love it when we’re together. I love it when people are at our house. Why can’t everybody just visit us?”

They’re both fine now, looking forward to the next trip we’ll all take together (north again, but to the east, to visit Grandma, and see other cousins, just a few days from now).

As for me, I think I’m slightly less than fine. We learned that the person who is ultimately in charge of my husband’s next assignment (and who had him stay put and not move to Europe) is “supportive” of us moving “this summer.” We also learned that the move might not be back to the same city in which my sister and her family lives, the same city in which both our children were born, the same city in which I worked full time and easily envision myself working again, but to a new city.

I learned all this on the last day of school. The day before our trip to my parents’ house. I learned all this as we walked to the car, after giving the school principal a hug and taking a picture. After the principal told me, “You just can’t leave us. You’re not moving anywhere!” I spent a lot of time at the school this year, volunteering. A lot of time. Time equals affection.

The next school year starts in two months. Two and a half, if it’s in a particular city. Hardly any time at all. And an eternity. Time equals pressure.

I made a mistake. Or rather, I keep making the same mistake. I keep getting very attached to things, in the moment I’m in, or in the moments I imagine.

I feel like our son, missing what I want, and grieving the loss of what I have. I feel like our daughter, wanting her home to be the one that everybody visits. Except I don’t really know where “home” is.

“Why can’t everybody just [do exactly what I want]?” is my constant internal refrain.

I am wearing myself out.