Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Question of Space

Growing up, I loved my room. I loved the white painted sliding lock on the door and the old fashioned keyhole i could peek through to see the hall I'd left behind. I loved the quiet that hung like a sigh just after I closed the door. I loved my window unit air conditioner turned to the coldest setting that made the room smell cold. In hot, sticky, Washington July, cold air feels like salvation.

Escaping to my room often involved tearing down the hallway and pulling the door shut as fast as I could; pushing and shoving heads and fingers -- pinching them if I had to -- back into the hall so the door would close; a little cruelty and some screaming. This was, after all, survival.
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Perhaps this need for MY own closed space sprang from having brothers 1 1/2 and 3 years younger that I. Perhaps it came from my need to guard the teeny breakable objects I adored and perched around my room. Perhaps it came from some introvert hard-wiring. Or from the fact that I was given a room that I was allowed to defend as my kingdom. In any event, the fight for my own space, and relief of having found it, has never let up.

But now, looking at my children I have questions (funny how that happens). Silas, too, appears to be a child who loves -needs? - his own space. When Eden moved into his room, after a month, he moved himself onto the floor of the laundry room, where he still sleeps. He likes to close the door. He likes to retreat. He does not like Eden to barge, or even sweetly crawl, in. He likes to play alone sometimes.

When I started hearing cries like, Mamaaa! E-MER-GEN-CYYYYYYY! in response to Eden's crawling toward him and his Duplos, my reaction was to defend him and to help him stake his boundaries. I'd give him suggestions: go to the kitchen table, play upstairs -- i.e. think about how you can maintain the space you want. If you're on the floor, she will come.

Soon after I became aware of all this, we spent an afternoon at a friend's house. Silas had taken a roadwork game to the couch and was playing alone. A child came over and started digging through the pieces. Just as I opened my mouth to say, "Silas is playing with that. You may have a turn when he is done." The child's mother said, "Silas give her half of those." Oh. He looked to me for help. I bit my tongue. He protested a few times and then kept playing. Oh.

As I watched, it was clear that personal space did not exist in this home. All the children overlap all the time. And no one seems to mind (though granted, there is a lot of fighting) or ask for anything more.

In some ways I love the rough-and-tumble we're-all-in-this-together family dynamic. I've learned a lot about that from my sister-in-law's family -- the girls, close in age, have lived on top of each other and are incredibly sweet together and mindful of each other. On the other hand, I wonder if I even could raise a family like that with my own bent toward space and doors and lines drawn down the middle of the seat.

So with these questions, I've been watching -- myself, Silas, other families -- and wondering. What messages am I giving Silas that are simply from my own childhood? What needs or wants actually spring from him? What am I reinforcing? What could I challenge? How shall I lead him? What are the best ways to form sibling dynamics as Eden gets older? What creates rigidity and what fosters growth?

Parenting is so tricky. I would love your thoughts if you have any to share.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If the boy needs his space let him have it at home, but teach that it can't be guaranteed outside of that. Give him the tools to play with others even when they invade his space, playdates by nature involve more than one playing after all, but allow him the comfort of knowing that when he gets home he can always find a space to call his own. ~Andrea