Raising kids has become one of the greatest joys and greatest struggles of our marriage. Many of you know, Kari and I have 4 kids, all age 11 and under. We have so loved seeing each of them become such unique, fun, and challenging little people.
You may have noticed I used the word "become" because, when our kids were all under six years old, every time someone would say to us, “Enjoy it, it sure goes by fast!”...I would throw up a little in my mouth. “Enjoying” chasing, changing diapers, cleaning up several times a day, making meals, wiping noses and behinds is a bit of an oxymoron, all the while feeling like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, living the same day, over and over again…the monotony was sometimes painful. While parenting toddlers can be tremendous...it can also often feel like survival on so many levels.
Hindsight is 20/20 for sure...looking back on those times, there is much I miss.
When our kids got to the age of "needing" their own room, we made an intentional decision to have our kids share one bedroom. Over the past several years, I've had a lot of conversations about this with folks, wondering how/what/why we would do this and so I thought I'd take a few moments to share what we have found to be helpful in this decision.
First though...let me qualify it (a ton). :) This idea is obviously not for everyone...I think you could easily write a blog about why it's important to give every child their "space" in your home, and I get that. If this is you, bravo...I am in no way challenging your parenting choices nor trying to brag of ours. This past year as I've written a few blog posts on marriage, I've realized how much people are longing to join the conversation (almost 10,000 visits to this blog) in how to flourish in their marriage and in their parenting...so, this is only an attempt to give some thoughts on adding to the "flourishing parent" conversation.
So, for what it's worth...here are 2 Reasons Why We Don't Let Our Kids Have Their Own Room;
1. Selfish Autonomy That Leads to Entitlement - I've spoken on this a bit before from a pastoral perspective when I wrote about entitlement being the number one killer of the American Church. But this is the case in general for humanity...we want things our way. We are selfish, and prideful, and while we fight to serve and care for others, at the end of the day...most people (probably not you) care more about themselves then they do the interest of others. We look at the man on the corner with disdain, believing he'll only use our charity to fuel his addiction. We publicly celebrate the promotion of others while privately loathing that it wasn't "me". We struggle to honestly and earnestly serve the other with no strings attached...I know this from the hundreds of conversations I've heard and had with statements like, "She didn't even say, 'Thanks.'", or "I don't need anything in return, but it would have at least been nice to have been acknowledged..." My point is this...my kids are learning this idea of autonomy and entitlement on their own. They live in a world that is all about it; Look good. Smell great. Have the perfect body. Get the right job. Get great grades so you can get into the right college. Wear Axe hair spray and ladies will literally jump you...basically, be perfect and nothing should stop you from that...it's truly all about, YOU! But it's not actually...the reality is, the job you get, the spouse you marry, the roommate you have in college...they will all demand sacrifice of you, and your autonomy and entitlement will be challenged in every stage of your life. So, in our home, we want to create a space where you have to intentionally know how to operate in a community...sharing a bedroom forces you to compromise your selfishness, especially when you are 11 and your little brother is 4. When you are trying to read a book and he's making bombing noises destroying all things in his imaginary sight in the bunk below. Or when she leaves her smelly socks on your "clean" jeans and you've got to figure out how to resolve your frustration, because you'll be waking up with her in the morning. When our kids get mad, they can't just go to their room, shut the door, and listen to music...they share that room with 3 other people. Living in community is one of THE BEST ways to fight your selfish autonomy that leads to entitlement.
2. Creating a Generous Heart - I spent the past 20 years working with families, in an organization called, Young Life. I've had countless conversations with parents about their kids, and each of them LONGS for their child to flourish in life...all of us want our kids to grow up to be great participants in society, and to contribute in a way that makes a difference. One of the things we want our kids to have is a generous heart. We want them to absolutely care about "the other". There are several ways you can foster this in your kids, but for us...sharing a room together is one intentional way we've tried to accomplish this. Creating a generous heart is not just in giving or sharing, but it also can be seen in how we resolve conflicts and frustrations. Our kids will have plenty of opportunities to think about themselves (see point number 1), but in the community of their bedroom...they have to figure out how to be generous with their space and "their things". Because again...every stage of their life will require working with others, and I pray that our kids will be givers and not just takers. Some of the first words our kids learned (after of course, "Dad-da" and "Ma-Ma"), were "Mine!", "No", "Mine!", "No!"...in fact when our kids were toddlers, it was everything we could do to get them to share with others...they could have a toy on the shelf that they never played with and as soon as one of their siblings went to play with it, it became absolutely the most important thing for them to have at that moment, and the fighting commenced. Sharing a bedroom, has forced our kids to figure out how to share their space and time and I'm convinced it is helping create in them a generous heart.
The truth is, one day, we may change our mind on this approach of a shared bedroom...but for now at least, we are going to keep helping our kids work on their charity, care, generosity, community, and benevolence.
In whatever ways you and yours are doing this in your home...keep going!!