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Of Dogs and Dance Parties

Trading Spaces

When we first moved to Yellow House, everybody got their own room, and we made the room assignments by age and room size. Noah got the biggest room and Ike got the smallest, with Ezra taking the medium-ish one. 

But we REALLY assigned Ike to the smallest room because we wanted him to have as little space for rock-star-trashing-a-hotel-room shenanigans as possible. That room is big enough for a twin bed, a nightstand and one small toy box. Everything else is kept in the basement or on the hallway bookshelves. This would naturally limit the about of shit that he could dump all over the floor every night. 

(Right. "Naturally." My ass.)

Sure enough, every morning I'd find the entire contents of his toy box on the floor, along with 20+ picture books he'd managed to drop riiiiiight into the small space between his bed and the wall. 

What I wouldn't find in that room, however, was Ike. Once his room was satisfactorily wrecked, he'd sneak into Ezra's room and crawl into bed with him. "Ezra keeps the bad dreams away," he told us adorably at the time, so we allowed it. We also, eventually, allowed Ike to just start the night in Ezra's room, until they were officially unofficial full-time roommates.

Fast-forwarding through a ton of nonsense, including a cat pee-stained mattress and a long, fruitless search for bunk bed hardware that got lost in the move, Ike and Ezra share the medium room with the bunk beds, and Noah's now in Ike's old room and loves it.. His old room is now a "playroom," which is just code for "the room with LEGO for carpet."

I had some vague plans to move a futon in there and maybe set it up as a proper room with ample toy storage and maybe a spot for video games, but, you know, it's me. I did absolutely none of those things. So it's just a big rectangular mess of random toys, with Ike's clothes in the closet. 

I could live with that, however, we're once again facing a Room Dilemma, as Ezra no longer wants Ike in his room, at all, ever. 

This is because Ike is a TERRIBLE roommate. Like, he is every dorm room nightmare and your first apartment out of college horror story combined. He broke a dresser and a lamp. He dumps entire bins of toys all over the floor and won't pick them up. I've found Ike-sized underwear where underwear should not be, nor could I even tell you how it got there. He wants ALL THE LIGHTS ON ALL THE TIME, leaves wet towels in Ezra's closet, and talks to Alexa in his sleep. 

(Meanwhile, this weekend Ezra decided to reorganize the bookshelves and basement toy closets FOR FUN. He pulled 20 tons of crap out and then meticulously sorted and stacked it all back in. He asked if he could have the day off from his regular chores, which I almost felt badly about agreeing to, because it takes him 10 minutes to load the dishwasher and he spent over 10 solid hours on the closets alone. But sure, go nuts!)

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Ezra wants a nice, clean, organized room. He wants his own desk and a non-broken dresser and a few shelves for storing his various collections and treasures. He doesn't want a floor covered in Bionicles and stuffed animals. He's tired of cleaning up Ike's messes every day, and I'm tired of Ike getting away with not helping. Their Odd Couple routine has run its course, and it's time for separate rooms once again. 

But who to relocate, oh Internet? I've offered Ezra the playroom, complete with promises of a baller floor-to-ceiling makeover. That way we could keep Ike contained in a smaller room with less shit to fuck up. But Ezra doesn't want to move. He likes his room. He's not the problem here. This is a fair and reasonable point coming from my fair and reasonable middle child.

Ike doesn't want to move either, and I'd also rather he not get the big room, since there are a lot of toys that just don't have anywhere else to go and would need to stay in there. He doesn't want to move because the room is big and scary and he thinks he'll get nightmares. This is either a fair and reasonable point or a complete load of dramatic hogwash from my youngest child, whose middle name is practically Dramatic Hogwash. 

Noah won't move back into the big room either, because the tiny room feels like he's in third class on the Titanic. This a fair and reasonable point from my Titanic Titanic oldest Titanic Titanic Titanic. 

I've been holding out hope that Ezra will change his mind and agree to move, but it's looking more and more likely that I'll have to move Ike to the playroom.  He can sleep with the lights on surrounded by a complete Bionicle floor army for comfort? He can go back to the days of just falling asleep flat out in the hallway instead? Perhaps someday, somehow, he'll see the benefits of not living in a trash hole and learn to keep his room clean?  Or his room can maybe be one that just doesn't exist on my plane of existence so I'll never have to go in there and see the chaos? Except maybe to put on my combat boots to go in and change his sheets every once in awhile? 

No matter what happens, this much is clear: WE HAVE TO GO BACK TO IKEA. 

Comments

Chris

Oh my gosh I love this post. I have poured over every word you've written about room sharing because our 3 and 7 year old boys are sharing a room due to the arrival of child #3. I think it's really great that the boys have to work out roommate issues now. I was an only child and I hereby publicly apologize to all of my college-era roommates for being a sometimes awful, messy roommate. I'm sorry!!! I'm not the worst ever, but I know I could have been better.

Sue W.

Is there any way you could divide the big bedroom in half? Then you could still have a Lego room and a smaller bedroom for Ike.

Yilian

I loved this post! Ike is exactly like my oldest (8yo) with the drama and the mess and the hairz and all. Luckily (?) right now we have only one room for him and he cant choose, also the baby is still sleeping with us, but we gave him the smallest one exactly for the same reason- less space, less mess, ha! Be glad I cant show you any pictures! Please tell us what you end up doing!

Sarah

Umm, Ezra is an organizing genius. That is all.

Janet Newhall

Not knowing the layout of your spaces, could you fake a smaller room in the playroom for Ike? Use a big bookshelf or wardrobe or other divider so he doesn't feel like he's in a giant cavern, and so you can reasonably say this side is your pit-hole, and the other side is NOT. Also, it might be too late to implement something like this, but the boy's bedroom is for reading and sleeping and that's it. They are allowed to have whatever reasonably fits on their nightstand for toys, but any other toys that make it in there during the day must make their way back to the playroom before bed. The playroom turns into chaos, but the bedroom never does.

Julie

Can I borrow Ezra for the weekend? He can help me organize and then we will play with the horses, chickens, geese, dogs, cats and parrot. :)

Susan

Hang up sheets or use room curtains in the biggest room to make a fort-like environment for Ike to sleep in. Google bed forts for creative ideas to make a cozy sleep space. You can also try one of the dozens of room dividers that Ikea offers.

Jennifer Gooch

Clearly Ezra is the original marie condo of organizing! My only advice is perhaps encourage Noah to move back to big room with a fun functional divider or something to make sleeping space cozy and smaller space to feel like he is in the smaller room. (curtain, old divider, tent space, port hole) Good luck and keep us posted!

MKP

Maybe there needs to be a Duct Tape Line of Demarcation on the floor to delineate Ike's chaos as separate from the communal toy empire.

Cara

Would Noah move if he got a boat loft bed? I saw one on Wayfair, and I would sure feel like I was in a tiny cabin.

Melissa

Well, I know what my mother would say (she had 3 girls): "Everybody back to their original rooms and I don't want to hear another word about it!" Not saying that's the solution, its just funny that her voice came to me so clearly as I read this.

Amy

What about doing a bed tent over the bed in the playroom? That might entice Titantic lover or confine in Ike a bit.

Camille

A bed tent solved this same issue for my nephew, who could zip himself in to keep the monsters out at night. Its made making the bed a complete PITA but, let's be honest here, bed-making occurs on the rarest of occasions.

Cheryl Soler

My nephew sleeps in a bed tent too. LOVES that thing.

Could you get Noah to move to a first class (large room) cabin? Complete with maritime makeover?

If not, could you get one of those accordian space divider things for the big room and make Ike's space smaller?

(To Melissa above, I heard my mom too! You'll move and you'll like it! )

monica

Can't Ike just sleep in the big room. In my experience (three boys who are not own college and high school), if you wait a while things will change. I would just tell Ike the big room is his and wait it out.

Ming

This is so very entertaining. Can't give any advice.

Also, for once, happy I only have one kid.

But she needs a bigger bed. So there's a trip to ikea in my future as well. Sigh.

Christine

Why do children start having opinions and how can we stop them doing that?

Liz

How big is the closet in the big room? Big enough for a mattress?

Supa

This is me. I am living this life. Except we don’t have a third room to move the third kid to because ah, we were not expecting the third kid, but now the third kid is here and has gouged her name in many surfaces so I guess we’re staying?

Good luck and god speed.

Flora

Nthing all the suggestions for a bed tent or some kind of canopy for Ike in the big room. I remember vaguely that Ikea sells room dividers that are installed in tracking rails and you can add a sliding door, so you could make part of the room storage and keep Ike out of the extra stuff.

I wonder if you could wean him off having all the lights on if you used a smart bulb in the lamps? We use the Kasa app and you can set a schedule and a particular dimness—or you can turn it off remotely if he’s asleep.

Marianne

My boys - 8 and 11 - share a bedroom too. They're both complete train wrecks, so that's not currently an issue. I just know that my 11 year old is going to want his own space at some point. We use our extra bedroom for my mom, who is my full-time nanny; but this arrangement is coming to an end either this year or next. We've already started the discussions about the move, and neither of them wants to leave their current s-hole room. Gah... I'm curious to see how you work this out.

Dawn K

Oh I am laughing at Melissa and her mother because my mother would say the same thing. It would be accompanied by comments on whose house do you think this is anyway and do YOU pay the mortgage around here? But I do agree with putting Noah back in the bigger room with a nautical makeover (first class Noah!). Let Ezra stay. Put Ike in the smaller room where Noah is and get him a bed tent to close himself in at night. He can leave the lights on to his hearts content inside his tent.

CJ

What is Ezra’s hourly rate and does he travel to Colorado? My linen closet needs hiz mad skills.

Vickie

Is there a walk in closet in the big room? I have known people who have put a bed (and pretty much nothing else) in a closet and left the doors open. And nothing is allowed in or out.

My husband was very very messy as a child. It continued. It still continues. His mother just let it roll and I have often thought - he liked to eat, probably you could have motivated him a bit . . .

The bee

Can you tell Noah he has been upgraded to first class, captain orders? You are a great mom, I have zero problem with the hall sleeping.

Heather

There are very many cool ways to make a cabin type bed for Noah in the big room. Good luck!

Jeanne

We are dealing with the same issue. We have a 12 year old with autism and he just cannot share a room. A 10 and 4 year old who are sharing a room by choice now but the 4 year old is a slob. And the 10 year old is not but is a collector instead. Then we have a 1 year old. We have 3 bedrooms for them to use. Which kids do I put together? Right now its a non issue because the 1 year old shares my room but he is being booted before he hits 2 and then what?! Why did I have more kids than bedrooms?

Miriam

pitch a tent in the playroom, throw in a proper mattress etc. ta da Ike has a new tiny room

Karen

I have four boys, ranging from 2nd grade age up to (OMG) college. Once upon a time, the three oldest shared a room because the third kiddo, who was the youngest at the time, slept horribly UNLESS he had somebody else in the room. But yes, he was also a room trasher.

I think the idea about the tent above is brilliant. I would definitely sell that idea hard to Ike. Also you may need to point out that he has to move, because Ezra has a right to a calm, tidy room, and Ike is not helping with that. My other advice, and this is not going to be welcome advice, it may even be ass-vice, but...de-clutter the toys. Go KonMari on that ish. We have/had a rule that when kids are young, the only toys they get in their room are stuffed animals and the books we read to them at night. I would seriously de-clutter the crap out of the playroom. Store things downstairs in the basement if you must. If a kid has impulse control issues, as many do, they need temptation out of their way. If I had a kid who just dumped stuff in his room and had to put him in a room with toys, I'd expect to have to put locks on the closet doors or just move the toys out. I would also explain, as I have had to explain to my kids, that if they are treating their toys like trash (throwing them around and not putting them away) then I will treat their toys like trash and get rid of them. Harsh, yeah, but it sound like his behavior is causing stress in the household and really needs to be addressed.

Cathy

Karen's comment reminds me of a story my husband told me about his mom--who warned him that if he left his toys out, she would throw them away. He didn't believe her, because they didn't have much money and toys were expensive. Well he came to discover that she was not to be trifled with. He didn't leave his stuff out after that. Harsh, but effective.

Mel

I have four children, ages 14 to 25, and this post brought back many memories. Three of them have always been very good at keeping track of their things and cleaning up after themselves, so the other one's issues are clearly not a matter of parenting. :D And now that room-trashing darling is a mechanical engineer and if I go to her place it is still pretty trashed but in the best way -- a 3D printer running in one corner, a sewing machine out somewhere else, soldering gun surrounded by supplies, books, etc. That 'mess' is evidence of a very complex and creative mind. (I just ignore the laundry and dishes!) And it's not in my house so my point is that it eventually all works out.

Jennifer B

I'm reminded of Jack Shepherd's line from Lost: "WE HAVE TO GO BACK."

Laura in Michigan

Sigh.... I never grew out of living in a shit show of a bedroom. Ask my husband.....

Liz

I am with Laura - my poor husband.....

Lindsey

Would Noah move to the big bedroom if someone painted portholes into the walls, and you called it a first class suite?

Jaclynn

My mom was a “I’ll throw your crap out if I have to tell you to clean it up again” kind of mom. Although she never actually threw it away, she put it aaaall in a trash bag(s) and put it in the basement, and my sister and I would have to earn each individual thing back (and sometimes it was A LOT of things!) In terms of the room situation I can’t say I disagree with some others from above. At some point some things aren’t negotiable. You tried to be reasonable and respectful of their individual personalities and wants, but sometimes you need to pull the “I’m the mom and I say so” and/or “my house, my rules” card. But side question, can’t you put Ike in the bigger room and keep it to a bare minimum? Just a bed and small night stand? Zero toys allowed?

Shannon

I'd just like to offer to adopt Ezra. We live in California! And we have a pool! And 2 dogs! And there are organization projects to keep him busy for years.

Just trying to give you options...

Monica

When I was 9.5, my parents told me I was going to have to share a room with my soon-to-be-born sister. I lost my f'ing mind. To save her sanity, my mom built a wall down the middle of my bedroom. I still had to share a room, but I had my own space and could pretend it was my own room. My sister's side was literally just big enough for a crib/toddler bed and some clothing storage. We moved before my sister outgrew the toddler bed - I still think that my mom did it that way so we'd have to move (Dad was a wee bit resistant to change).

And my ADD husband still tries to keep his room like Ike does. Since it's also my room, it's not ideal.

Jane

What ever room Ike is in, NO toys, No books, 1 stuffy in bed.
No privileges if room is tossed.
He needs to know that he is highly privileged, and with that comes real responsibility for his behavior. He is the baby in your family but he is not a baby/toddler and behaving like one is not acceptable. Ike should take over Ezra's jobs of dishwasher and table setting and become a contributing member of the family. I'd add he needs to sort all clothes out of dryer and fold them and deliver them to room of correct sibling putting his own away properly. Real contributions to a smooth household. Personally I'd like to to not do anything I didn't want to do too, but life doesn't work that way and learning to contribute to the household and do tasks and keep your belongings tidy is part of being a functional member of society. It is highly important in raising our future to teach them now how to manage their surroundings and belongings so they can do this when they leave home. It isn't rocket science & whomever they live with in the future will expect them to be functional adults.

Michelle B

Would Noah be open to sharing the middle room with Ezra if you made that a room with JUST beds, dressers, desks, etc and put ALL the toys into the big room? Leaving the small room as Ike's hovel?

lisa

It sounds like Ike is uncomfortable with wide open spaces when he's sleeping. I was going to suggest one of those Dutch alcove beds, but the comments about the tent bed are probably a better place to start.

I also agree that he needs to start understanding that his behavior has resulted in his eviction. Just because he's the youngest, he's not a baby anymore. It's just that those techniques have worked well for him. But I've known too many train wreck youngest children, so it's good that you are dealing with it now. I don't envy you here.

He's also a visual thinker, so it does make some sense that he likes leaving everything spread out. But he doesn't know how to organize them for his own preferences.

I also wonder if one of those weighted blankets might be something that would help him calm down at night. And maybe a cat to snuggle with.

Valerie Clark

When I was preschool age, my brother and I had to share a room. His half was always tidy. My side was a mess. He complained. Then mom and dad built a huge bedroom in the basement for all 3 boys. Their room turned into a dump. Mine stayed a dump. My clean freak mom was stressed. I still live in a very nice, messy condo. My brother's wife is a cleaner.

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