The very first time I had a room all to myself, I was 13. My older sister had moved away to college, and before my parents had even pulled out of the driveway with a uHaul filled with her stuff, I was already taping up Bebo Norman posters and inspirational quotes on the walls.
As one of four kids on a military family’s budget, I got used to sharing limited space.
Unless you’re an only child (or an only child of a certain gender), sharing a bedroom seemed to be a rite of passage filled with coming-of-age anecdotes perfect for showing today’s young generation just how good they’ve got it. (“When I was your age, I shared a landline with MY PARENTS and BOYS WOULD CALL and my parents would ask TO WHOM AM I SPEAKING right in front of the whole family at dinner time, so next time you ask me about getting your own iPhone, YOU JUST THINK ABOUT THAT.”)
(You might want to save that one for later, say, ten or so years from now.)
I shared a room with my older sister for the first five years of my life, until we moved to another air force base and she was granted her own room. For the next eight years my little sister and I shared, and whenever my college-age sis would return for summer break, all three of us shared. When it was my turn to go to college, and I shared a dorm room with the coolest chicks on campus. And then I got married and shared a room with the cutest boy on campus. Now I’m a mom and I still share a room with that same cutest boy on campus, plus an eleven-year-old who thinks dive-bombing his dad in the wee hours of a Saturday morning is HILARIOUS, and a five-year-old who thinks we bought that king-size bed for her littlest majesty. (Parents, I’ve learned there is no such thing as your own room, but if there is in your life, then TELL ME YOUR SECRETS.)
Some of my biggest, most traumatizing and embarrassing annoyances as a kid come from not having my own room or things. I remember railing against all of humanity because my little sister borrowed a pair of my shoes out of our shared closet without even asking, and didn’t she know she was STRETCHING THEM OUT?! Or can I PLEASE just call the boy I was SO IN LOVE WITH and talk to him for THREE MINUTES without my sister eavesdropping on our SOUL-DEFINING CONVERSATIONS?!
But even more so, my favorite memories growing up come from splitting a bedroom with someone. A lot of conspiracies, boy talk, plans to run away, bone-deep belly-shaking laughter moments, and deep, dark secrets were hatched and revealed in those shared spaces. Best friendships — even, or especially, with my sisters — were born in between those walls. I think, if I really want to get profound, I was my most honest self in the rooms I shared with my siblings.
It’s certainly more common in our American culture for kids to have their own things and own space, and I’m definitely grateful I can send my boy and my girl to their own separate rooms when the evenings become an exercise in shouting and tattle-telling.
But there’s something to be gathered from the coziness of two warm bodies within four walls whispering in the dark while falling asleep to the sound of each other breathing.
(Unless your roommate snores. Then all bets are off.)
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Jessica Buttram parents, writes, laughs, and eats too much chocolate. She has no practical advice and zero life hacks to offer for this whole parenting gig, but she makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich, and that’s something, right? When she’s not bribing her kids with Doritos to make them sit still and snuggle for just a few minutes longer, she can probably be found vacuuming Dorito crumbs out of the couch. Her family is her whole world, except for the part that belongs to coffee. You can find her @jbuttwhatwhat and meetthebuttrams.com.