Making the Nest a Little Bit Nicer Before They Leave
“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?