At first it seemed an impossible task to put my newborn in the same bedroom as my toddler, but it turned out better than I ever expected.
One of the greatest challenges of living in a small house is figuring out bedroom-sharing arrangements for little kids. It’s one thing for adults to inhabit a small space, but it becomes much more complicated when you’re trying to sleep-train a newborn in the same room as a rambunctious toddler.
When my husband and I bought our two-bedroom century home, we had one child. By the time a second child arrived a year later, I started panicking. What on earth were we thinking, buying a house with only two bedrooms? Suddenly I understood why so many parents automatically upgrade to a larger home as soon as they find out they’re expecting.
At first, I kept the baby in a basket on the floor of our bedroom, which is so small that we had to step over him whenever we got out of bed. He stayed there for four months, until he’d outgrown the basket and I could no longer put off the inevitable move.
I was nervous because I thought the baby’s crying would disturb the toddler. I worried that the toddler would climb into his crib and inadvertently hurt him. I fretted about them waking each other at ungodly hours. All of those things happened, lasting for a couple of weeks, but then something amazing happened.
The two of them started to depend on each other’s presence in order to fall asleep. The baby would fuss if his brother didn’t go to bed at the same time. If the toddler wasn’t sleepy, he chatted to his brother. I caught snippets of adorable one-sided conversations: “Stop crying! I’m trying to sleep. Let me sing you a lullaby if you’re sad.” They grew accustomed to each other’s noises, and sometimes the baby calmed himself when he heard his brother breathing nearby.
Countless parents have faced this dilemma throughout history. I recall the many years I shared a room with my sister -- all the way through our teenage years -- and the crazy plans we hatched because we spent so much time together. I think of my friend’s old farmhouse where eight kids were raised in three bedrooms. It’s only in recent decades that kids feel entitled to private rooms and that parents can afford it, but I think something wonderful has been lost in the process.
We humans are communal creatures; babies and children, especially, thrive on the presence of others. There are great lessons to be learned from sharing a room with a sibling. It teaches kids how to divide space evenly, keep it organized and tidy, communicate effectively, play together, and – most importantly – how lovely it is just to have another person around.
The bond between my boys becomes stronger as they grow. They are inseparable and spend hours talking, playing, and joking around in their room, which allows us parents to sleep longer on weekends. It’s hard to imagine them sleeping apart, and I’m glad that our snug home forced them to share. I wouldn’t change it for anything now.