I fall into the bed in the guest room at 3 a.m., utterly exhausted from managing the various wakeups of my children over the past few hours. My 4-year-old daughter is now fast asleep next to her father while my 2-year-old son has finally quieted his cries of protest and returned to slumber in his crib. I wonder, and not for the first time, if I should just give in and move my children into separate bedrooms.
Nighttime wakeups have become so much more fraught since the evening we assembled the second crib across the room from my daughter’s toddler bed. My champion-sleeper eldest child became subject to the capricious sleeping habits of her younger sibling.
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Honestly, it hasn’t been as bad as I had originally feared. The aid of two white noise machines running simultaneously on parallel sides of the room combined with the deep slumber of youth has resulted in the kids’ nighttime needs seldom intersecting. However, with this most recent sleep regression, I have begun to fear my son will never sleep through the night and that his sister will pay the price. So I have begun to usher my disoriented older toddler into bed with her father, remove the baby monitor from my bedroom, and set up camp for myself in the guest bed to navigate these rocky times.
I am resolute. My children will share a room.
The reason for my stubbornness is not simply about the availability of accommodations for guests (or somewhere I can go when I want to spend a night alone). I am immovable on this issue because I once shared a bedroom with my younger brother, and because my younger brother is the best friend I’ve ever had. I want to do everything in my power to facilitate that closeness between my children, and I cannot deny the role that going to bed and waking up in the same small room together until I began to reach puberty played in our ongoing closeness.
I want my children to grow up with a kind of shorthand between them, shared experiences and jokes that even I will never understand. My heart fills to bursting when I see them playing together, rolling around on couch cushions, playing pretend, lying side-by-side after an exhausting day of play as they exhibit the same lack of physical boundaries with one another that they do with me and form the most comfortable-looking human puddle I’ve ever seen.
I want them to navigate life’s challenges together.
Comfort one another in times of stress, strain, and grief. Congratulate each other and stand by one another in times of triumph and celebration. Talk out difficult emotions with one another. Stand up for one another. And have each other to lean on when my husband and I are no longer around to support them.
My brother and I have shared work experiences, prom experiences, school experiences, and still share our friend group. My brother is a part of every single wonderful thing that has ever occurred in the course of my life and a presence in every single difficult thing I’ve ever endured.
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He was my “man of honor” at my wedding, the godfather to my eldest child. He is the person I reach out to when I am annoyed with just about anyone I love, usually peppering language in the conversation that implies his ownership of the annoying person in question: “Guess what YOUR mother/father/grandfather/brother-in-law/niece/nephew just did!” He has been my built-in best friend and playmate. He is the person who was always on hand to play with when friends left me out or forgot me as a child.
Having a brother means I will never be—have never been—truly alone.
So I persevere. My husband and I planned to have our children close together in hopes of facilitating a similar relationship, and I am more than willing to sacrifice a few hours of sleep on the front end in hopes of the lifelong reward for my children of having—and being—loving, close siblings.