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Making the Nest a Little Bit Nicer Before They Leave

By Isabel Kallman

“Kid Nesting” a New Trend in the 21st Century?
While Alice is vacationing in the Rocky Mountains, I, Eden M. Kennedy, am filling in for her, but just for today.
This is where I confess that for my son’s seventh birthday we put a television in his room.
My husband, a hard-working man who at the end of a long day just wants a beer and a few innings of a Yankees game, routinely kicks all children out of our main living space with the instruction that either they go down the hall and find somewhere to be quiet, or go outside and play. And if, after an hour outside, our little boy wanted to come back in and watch The Suite Life with four of his friends, they inevitably ended up doing that while eating popcorn in my bed.
And that was okay for awhile. For a couple of years, even, I could take it. But about a month ago I snapped. I was tired of kids leaving crumbs in my sheets and having fights with my pillows and poking around in my night stand.
But that was only half of the problem.
The other half of the problem was that my son still thought of our bed as his. We’d done the family bed thing off and on since Jackson was clever enough to pick the lock on his crib and join us, but now he was seven and I was tired of him coming in at 2:00 a.m., stealing my pillow, and filling the bed with Webkinz every night.
We’d tried to make his room kid-friendly and fun, but it had evolved into a place where he dumped his clothes and toys before making himself (and his friends) (and their stuffed animals) at home in ours. They didn’t even watch TV half the time they were in there, they were too busy giggling and hiding under the bed with the dogs.
We needed to make some changes. My husband helped with some simple rearranging of my son’s room — we took the bunk bed off its high platform and put it on the floor so the dogs could hop in and snuggle at night; we moved the desk and some shelves around to create more floor space; we filled four lawn-and-leaf bags with old toys. The room became surprisingly cozy, and Jackson loved it.
But even though he fell asleep in his bed, he continued to wake up in the middle of the night and slip back in with us.
My parents put a TV in my room when I was six. I don’t know if they wanted to get rid of me or, because my older brothers shared a room, my parents thought I needed company, or what, but when it was time to move the old black-and-white out of the living room and replace it with one of them newfangled color jobs, they stuck the old one on a cart with wheels, rolled it up to the foot of my bed, and plugged it in. My brothers were pissed.
It turned me into a young Today Show fan, but not much beyond that, I don’t have an addictive personality and would shut the thing off and go ride my bike, or bounce a ball against the garage door until the neighbors went insane.
It’s a little different for my son, in the era of 24-hour cartoon networks, but so far he’s gladly followed the strict limits we’ve set for watching. BECAUSE HE HAS HIS OWN TV, DUDE! It’s just a 12-inch square box but it’s done what I hoped it would, it’s turned his room back into a place he wants to hang out, even during the long hours the TV isn’t on. He’s rediscovered games and toys that he didn’t notice when he was spending all his play time on my bed. He chose some posters for his walls. He invites me to come in to read Wayside School books with him. He’s nesting.
The New York Times recently posted a story (registration required) about keeping older children at home through the clever use of furniture. That is to say, for more affluent families the rumpus room of old has evolved into a high-tech sphere where your teenager(s) can entertain themselves and their friends without needing to be driven somewhere and then picked up hours later, after which you may or may not get a candid answer to the question, “So, what have you guys been doing?”
In a typical move, the Times focuses on suburban families that can afford to spend from $5,000 to $175,000 to provide a space where their kids can have fun, stay out of their parents’ hair, and socialize with clear boundaries. A family in Illinois renovated their basement into a English-pub-themed zone with a projection TV, Xbox and Playstation, a full kitchen, and room for twelve overnight guests. “We have kids eating over here, sleeping over here and playing all day here,” Ms. Skarzynski said. “It’s a priority for us to create a space where our kids can have their own friendships, their privacy and their own lives. It creates a lot less anxiety for everyone.”
Another parent says, “The nice thing is that they all hang out in their space and do what they do and we don’t have to worry about where everyone is. There are drugs and alcohol and sex and a million other temptations out there, and I think the kids are often just as nervous as the parents are. Having a cool place to hang with friends under your own roof just makes it a little bit easier.”
Back in the 1980’s the trend-spotter Faith Popcorn created a stir by giving a now-familiar name to what couch potatoes everywhere were doing by opting to stay in at night: nesting. Now, apparently, that generation has passed on the potato gene to its children.
What do you think? Do you want your kids out of your hair and out of the house, or do you like them where you can keep an eye on them? How far are you willing to go to trick out a private space for them?

Isabel Kallman
About the Author

Isabel Kallman

Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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  • Johnna

    July 11, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    We have some toys in each of our kid’s rooms. We recently removed all the toys from our room because we were having the same problem you are. We do have a fantastic play room in the basement, too. That’s where “their” t.v. is and most of the toys. BUT, at 5 and 2.5, they don’t want to stay down there by themselves. So, guess where my 5 year old is playing and watching t.v. right now while the younger children nap? That’s right, my room.

  • Catherine

    July 11, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    $175,000 for a rompus room, wow. I can almost buy a whole house for that much.
    But I get it. My kids are little (both <5), but I expect that at some point we’ll finish the basement with two bedrooms and a family room for kids and their friends. I know that providing a space doesn’t keep them out of trouble, kids will find trouble. But it might keep them out of harm’s way. Hanging out behind the 7-11 never yields anything positive.
    As for the family that can have that many kids over at once, what do they feed them? I was told once by a very smart friend, never give the neighborhood kids anything but water otherwise they’ll never go away. So, I don’t.

  • Mrs. Kennedy

    July 12, 2008 at 10:45 am

    That is an excellent point, we learned that the hard way, suddenly we had seven kids standing in our living room saying they needed a snack and did we have any more Gatorade. Huh? Go ask your mom for a cracker.

  • Ellen

    July 14, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Don’t fool yourself. A lot of stuff goes on in those basement “nests”. Not YOUR kids, of course, but someone ELSE’S kids. Parents don’t tend to circulate downstairs, so as long as it is a quiet, odor free activity, it can happen. Go down and do a couple of loads of laundry or something, just to keep them too nervous for monkey business. And we didn’t have one of those basement hideaways for the kids (no basement), but they had friends with basements.

  • denice

    July 15, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    No TVs in the bedroom for us. Not yet and not any time soon. We have a 7 year old and a 5 year old and they are afforded mroe than enough time to watch Tv in the TV room. Yes, there are times my husband and I just want to sit down and enjoy thirty minutes of television during their waking hours (is a rerun of Mad About You really too much to ask?) and on those ocassions we are often heard screaming ‘get upstairs or i will burn all your toys and scatter the ashes over a pit of really mean crocodiles’. Not ideal, but still the alternative we prefer. We also get enough TV watching in once they go to bed.
    We have friends who have TVs in their very young children’s bedrooms. The kids watch TV to fall asleep every night of their lives. Not our cup of tea – we prefer books and therefore, so do our kids.
    still, i bear you no ill will for your decision (you are relieved, i know). you’re not poking the child in the eye with a rusty fork. that would make me mad. the TV thing is more of a ‘to each their own’ issue.

  • Anonymous

    July 15, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Oh, the things I did in my friends’ finished basements…
    Did you know that a teenager can get all of his or her clothes back on in the brief time it takes a stay at home mom to walk down the steps?
    Good times, good times.

  • Hope

    July 15, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    I am a 26 years old female and remember fondly my friend in high school who had a “cool place to hang out.” He had a separate garage where we would hang out and drink small amounts of whatever we could get our hands on. He made it very clear to us that if we drank one drop of anything we had to stay the night. And we always did. This was strange for my mother who would ask what I was doing for the night and I would reply honestly that I was going to Jeremy’s house to drink and I would be home in the morning. She would say things like, “Why don’t you lie to me and say you are staying at your girlfriend’s house?” And I would say that she didn’t raise me to lie and give her the phone number of where I would be (this is pre-cell-phone days). I will say that I was one of those kids that drank, but this situation made me one of those kids that NEVER DRANK AND DROVE.

  • Lori

    July 15, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    our two boys have their own separate couch + t.v. area upstairs, and my 11-year-old just got his own t.v. by his bed. as far as i’m concerned, everyone having their own space makes family life run smoothly.

  • iana

    July 15, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    My husband and I have always planned on having an area for our kids to have friends over and hang out in. Not a $175,000 room, Good Lord, hopefully they can get by with less than that, but somewhere they want to be. Right now our daughter is five, so it doesn’t apply yet, but one day I’ll be on the ‘keep them where I can see them’ side of it.

  • Amy

    July 15, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    I don’t think the TV in the kids room is a bad thing. My 4 year old got one for his birthday and it’s not like we allow him to watch it 24/7. There are restrictions on it and he asks to watch it even though its in HIS room. We did this because we don’t have a TV in the main living area and the kids don’t like to be in the basement (where the big screen is) for long periods of time by themselves. And I would never allow them to watch it to fall asleep!!

  • Beth

    July 15, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Oh, Eden, Eden, Eden. I must tell you that I spent so many good years in Denver in other people’s finished basements learning to smoke, drink, drug, and get STDs. Were it not for those fancy 80s-style wet bars and pool tables and overstuffed couches and wide-screen TVs I would have remained the completely uncool, TV-denied kid my parents intended me to be, and a virgin till college. Thank god for all those parents who wanted to keep their kids out of trouble.
    Us, we have no room for a TV in the kid room and forget to watch it ourselves most of the time. It’s the COMPUTER that’s the issue. I say no way is she going to surf for pedophiles in her own room. So she’ll probably do what I did and go to other kids’ houses.

  • Angie

    July 16, 2008 at 10:32 am

    This is just another example of the gap between reality and rich people. $175,000?? Are you serious? Insane.
    We have pre-teen/teenagers (3 daughters) and we have a walkout basement that we have made into their ‘pad’, so to speak. They have friends over all the time, play the Wii, watch movies and since the basement opens up to the backyard, they head outside, play bocce, soccer, capture the flag, ghost in the graveyard and have bonfires at least once every weekend.
    Trust me, we didn’t spend anywhere near even $2000 and the kids still love to hang out down there. Here’s a tip: IKEA is your friend. Cheap, kid-friendly furniture.
    However, I do agree with the comment above, make many passes through the basement every now and then and make sure everyone is ‘behaving’.
    My husband and I both come from being the kids that tried everything we weren’t supposed to, that helps in knowing what your kids are trying to do:) It hasn’t changed that much.

  • P&P

    July 16, 2008 at 10:59 am

    What amazes me about these parents is that viewing one re-run of “That 70’s Show” will remind them as to what happens in a basement, whether it’s finsished or unfinished.
    I’m not saying you should allow your kids to run wild in the streets, but for G-d’s sake, let them grow up.

  • Sheryl

    July 16, 2008 at 11:09 am

    My kids watch way too much TV as it is. I don’t see TVs in their rooms anytime in the future.
    I recently perused a Faith Popcorn book at a garage sale, and she mentions nary a word about the internet in predicting future trends. So much for her!
    Also, I’m trying to figure out how to get my 3 children out of our bed; we’re packed in like sardines in there. So far, putting sleeping bags on the floor for middle-of-the-night visits seems to be working well, but I’d like the whole room to ourselves. Baby steps, baby steps.

  • Donna

    July 17, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    We live in a small rural community, my kids “hang-out” area is in the open field around our house sitting by a campfire, or the tailgate of their trucks, they all love it. My husband and I make frequent passes and alot of times sit around and talk with them. We’ll even make a party out of it an invite our adult friends who conveniently happen to be alot of the parents. It’s really nice after football games when they all need something to do to unwind, keeps them off the highways. I know they sometimes sneak some beer but they know my hard and fast rule is you stay (and they will) or have a driver if you drink. They also know that if someone screws up just one time, then they loose their “hang-out” place.