When my husband and I bought a 1,000-square-foot ranch
house in the suburbs of Boston, we were only sure about one thing: We were
going to have a baby and we needed a bigger place to live. There was no thought
of second kids or tight quarters. And at the time, the two-bedroom house at a
good price point was just right for us.
We had a very modest master bedroom. When
our son was born, he stayed next to us in a co-sleeper for six months. Eventually
we transferred him into the tiny bedroom across the hall. All was sweet and well. One couple. One toddler. Two
At the time we weren’t so sure, but my kids, who are now teens, still
reminisce about how much they loved sharing that room. My son always had the company
he craved in the dark and my daughter always knew her brother was nearby.
As they got older and needed more space for their kid stuff,
my husband and I took the smaller bedroom for ourselves and turned our master
bedroom over to them. The four of us decorated their new room in colors that
our children had to agree on.
We painted the walls white and the dresser blue.
The curtains—that my son and daughter picked out together—had a fish theme and
the rug they chose had a water pattern. When my daughter insisted on a magenta
blanket, it clashed terribly with the ocean decor, but it also didn’t matter. We weren’t trying to look like a Pottery Barn catalog.
But they loved it, and it bonded them for life.
What mattered was that our son and daughter were happy and cozy. And they were. By sharing a room, they learned from
their earliest years about the need to compromise. For example, there was the
time that my son resolutely refused to dismantle his Playmobile pirates ship
set that pretty much consumed every bit of their floor space but my daughter
wanted room for her train tracks. Together they had to figure out a way to
both be in that space with their favorite toys.
The answer? Wind the tracks
around the ship and play together.
At night, my husband or I would curl up with the kids in one
of their two pushed-together single beds and read them books that they both
grew to love together, but might not have discovered if it weren’t for being in
the same place at bedtime. "Humphrey the Hamster" stories could send both of them
into fits of giggles. The Laura Ingalls Wilder series was also a hit with both boy
Almost better than reading, however, was that moment when my
husband and I would tiptoe out after goodnight kisses and listen to their
little voices still chatting away. On weekend mornings, they might stay in their
room and play games like “camping,” in which they would crawl under one blanket
and kick their feet in the air to make a tent above their heads.
The room was always crowded, covered with clothes and strewn
with books. The floor had almost no walking space and there was only one
dresser and nightstand. But they loved it, and it bonded them for life.
When my son was 9, we decided to put a second floor on
the house, giving the kids their own rooms. My daughter cried when she heard
our plans and relentlessly begged us not to change our house. She didn’t want
to be across the hall from her brother and couldn’t imagine what it would feel
like to sleep in a room alone.
We went through with our plans and the kids grew to love their new rooms. But when I think back on those six
years they spent sharing, I know it was the best thing we ever did to promote a deep, loving brother-sister connection.