When a newborn and toddler share a room…

The only problem with our beloved century home is the fact that it only has two small bedrooms. When we first viewed the house, this was a serious downside, but I was willing to live with it because I loved the rest of the house so much. We had only our sixteen-month-old son at the time, so it seemed reasonable. In less than a year, we had a newborn. We squeezed two cribs into the room, a tall dresser, and a rocking chair; it was cramped.

For the first four months, the baby slept in a basket on the floor beside our double bed. I kept him there until his feet pushed against the end of the basket. If it seems like a long time to keep a newborn in a bassinet, it’s because I was terrified of the inevitable dilemma — how to teach a rambunctious toddler and a fragile newborn to share a small room. The combination of different sleeping schedules, the baby’s cries when waking up to feed in the night, my fear of the baby getting assaulted by his over-enthusiastic brother in the mornings, had me wishing I’d opted for a different house with more bedrooms.

Before the little one outgrew his trusty old basket and the older one was still dangerously curious about the new invader in our family
Before the little one outgrew his trusty old basket and the older one was still dangerously curious about the new invader in our family

But then I thought about the room I’d shared with my sister for all my life and the wonderful experience that was. I thought of my friend Jenn’s three-bedroom farmhouse that once raised a family of eight kids. I looked at the antique black-and-white photo of our house showing a mother holding two children in her arms. This dilemma has been faced by countless mothers for millennia. Why should I think it’s such a big deal? After all, as I reasoned with myself, we humans are communal beings who take comfort in company, especially a little baby who’d hardly like to be all alone in a dark room.

Out of sheer necessity, I began introducing the baby to his crib and my toddler to the idea of having a companion. Much to my relief, it was a success. I found my older son in the baby’s bed only a few times. Within days, they began to show an adorable dependency on each other’s company. The baby would cry if his brother wasn’t put to bed at the same time. If my older one was having trouble falling asleep, he would chatter and whisper to the baby. Once I heard him singing a lullaby to the fussy baby. One of the funniest times was hearing him shout, “Stop crying! I’m trying to sleep.” Of course, the louder he shouted, the harder the baby screamed until I came in and calmed them both. Amazingly enough, each slept through the other’s noises all night long and sometimes even into the morning.

Now that we’ve all gotten used to room-sharing, I’m actually thankful that circumstances forced me to do it. With a third bedroom, I would have been tempted to put the baby in there because it would be so much easier. But now, I look at the special nighttime bond that my two boys have and am happy that they will always be able to listen to the sound of their best friend breathing nearby.

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10 thoughts on “When a newborn and toddler share a room…

  1. I love this post 🙂 I don’t know how many times I’ve wished we had 3 rooms on the same floor so that the twins could have separate rooms and ‘sleep better’. I think the ‘sleep better’ part is mostly in my imagination because they actually lie in their beds and chat with each other in the morning and talk about the shadowy shapes at bed time imagining what they are (like people do with clouds) rather than be afraid of the dark. It’s their special time to share their secrets and talk about the day they had and what they want to do ‘a morrow’. Now I just have to convince myself to stop listening in on these most ‘private’ conversations. I have to use the single quotes there because a chat about how much you love Dora or how sad you are that your favourite pajamas are too small isn’t THAT private right? 🙂 The boys will love sharing a room!!

  2. It’s a bit of a shock to being raised in a three-bedroom house with both front and back yards, and sometimes I wonder if I’m doing right by my little guy. Then I remember that there were four kids to fit in two bedrooms and one makeshift bedroom, and that only my brother–the sole boy–never had to share a room. We did just fine, for all of that. And now, I savor the sound of snoring, because it takes me back to the happiest parts of way back when.

    1. Funny, isn’t it, how so many aspects of childhood that are frustrating at the time, like sharing a room with siblings, become wonderful memories in retrospect? I suppose that’s true of many things in life. I’m sure your little guy is doing just fine in smaller quarters because kids aren’t even aware of those things. They can’t put it into perspective. They’re just happy to be surrounded by love and with their mom and dad.

  3. The way you write really makes me keep reading. Maybe you do this already, but have you approached your local paper about a regular column? You know how to connect with readers and you would definitely help sell papers!
    And what lovely responses. LOL about the eavesdropping Jenn – my desk is not far from my chidlren’s room and I love listening to their sleepy utterings! My favourite was when my eldest, aged three, was moving from a cot to a toddler bed. I heard him saying to his little brother (then about 18 months): “You see, I get a big bed because I’m a teenager. You, you’re just a baby so that’s why you’re in a cot with those bars. So you can’t escape because that’s what babies do.” The smug, disdainful tone of voice was hilarious.
    I still have my two in together even though we have rooms to spare. I agree with Deborah the Closet Monster – I also think little children get great comfort from all the snorts and snuffles fellow humans make in their sleep. There are sometimes squabbles when one person is more tired than the other, but that’s all part of the closeness and the fun.

    1. Why, thank you. You’re the best kind of reader to have! I actually did approach my local paper over a year ago (before I started blogging) and asked to do a weekly food column but they weren’t interested. Now I write three times a week for Parentables, which keeps me busy. I love the challenge of having deadlines, though. It’s exhilarating.

      I’m happy to hear that other moms are into room-sharing, too, because it’s not necessarily the easiest solution. There’s nothing quite so delightful as listening to their little baby chatter and funny take on the world. Kids are endlessly entertaining, especially when they don’t know they’re being listened to!

      P.S. I love the adorable cover photo on your blog. That’s why my two little guys will look like someday when they’re bigger….

      1. I’ll post the uncropped photo, it’s even better when you see where they’re sitting!
        My nephews have all shared rooms right up to their teenage years and still love it when my two are kipping on their floor.

  4. We have a two bedroom as well! Actually when Kira was born (#2) we ALL shared a room. The kids were separated from us by a curtain hanging from the ceiling. They sleep fairly well together in their room now, but sometimes they like to encourage mischief from one another!

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