On putting myself closer to the top of the list

So, yesterday you may have noticed Eli’s nice little cozy bed. It’s in what is currently our newly-redone attic. Dave spent months finishing our attic (best part: super-insulating the roof-line, which made such an enormous difference I can’t even tell you). This room is a masterpiece. It’s gorgeous (for some reason I can’t find a “before” picture, but you can get a small idea by looking at the top photo in my cardboard stool post). It’s such a lovely retreat. And I lobbied — hard — for putting the kids up there.

My reasoning was that I really want them all to sleep in the same room, and that putting everyone in the attic would free up two rooms on the second floor, and how magical would it be to have two rooms that have no specific purpose? We could have a craft room! Or…or… a meditation room! (Um, not that we ever meditate.) Or a reading nook!

Dave lobbied for the attic to be our room, on the basis of needing our own sanctuary. Everyone else pretty much argued in favor of this as well. Sometimes (a lot of the time) if everyone is arguing for the thing I’m arguing against, I just dig in my heels and argue harder. To my credit, I do think putting the kids in the attic has merit. Dave agreed, at some point, and when the room was done (beginning of February), we moved them in.

Half the room is for their beds, the other half is a toy/play area. It works great. Until midnight. Then Zuzu wakes up and yells, “Ma! Ma!” and I run upstairs and sleep with her. At 3:00 I go back downstairs. At 3:20 she yells for me again. At 5:00 Eli wakes up to pee, goes down to the second floor bathroom, and slams the door. Then he goes upstairs and yells for someone to cuddle with him. When we refuse, he stomps around. And then we’re all up. Every night we tell him he has to sleep in after he gets up to pee, and every morning he stomps around angrily (which is crazy loud from the second floor).

Two weeks ago Dave and I talked about switching the rooms (so that we would go in the attic), so at least Eli’s stomping wouldn’t be so loud. I still wasn’t totally on board, and the work involved in switching the rooms kept us at the status quo. Then, last Saturday, as I lay there in Zuzu’s bed angrily whispering to Eli that he needed to get the hell back in bed, the whole Thing of the situation finally sunk in.

I wanted the kids to have the awesome room. They weren’t sleeping, and they had already started their customary practice of trashing the room itself (a particularly gruesome block-throwing incident stands out). Why couldn’t I have the awesome room? We’re the grownups — we should have the best room, right? I mean, yeah, there are logistical reasons why having the children all in the big attic room might make sense, but they failed the trial period. Suddenly, I wanted the room. A lot. I wanted the sanctuary. The adult space.

Of course now there are about 17 steps that need to happen before we can move them downstairs (getting them all in one room so we can paint and finish the trim-that-never-happened in our current bedroom), but we’re moving ahead with it. I ordered them some super cute quilts which will hopefully make the transition less traumatic to them. The plan is to put Henry, Eli, and Zuzu in Dave and our current bedroom, and to make the boys’ old bedroom into a playroom. I hope we can get it all done before the baby is born (9.5 more weeks!). But having an adult sanctuary space will be a whole, new thing for me, and hopefully signals a New Era of not waiting on the royalty hand and foot and getting them to polish my crown every once in a while (suddenly I have a massive fear that “polish my crown” is some kind of dirty euphemism).

Am I articulating this properly? For six-and-a-half years I’ve been trying to figure this all out, and have been falling heavily on the path of doing whatever my kids want. The result is happy kids and total household chaos. We’re about to add a fourth kid to this, and it has. to. stop. Dave and I need to be the alpha dogs. I have really been working on child self sufficiency (“You can get a glass of milk yourself”). The next big (BIG) step is child self entertainment. Sometimes it works, but with Eli and Zuzu it’s a lot harder (Henry thrives on it, most of the time). But situations where I am telling Eli I need to do the taxes, and he is shouting, ” No! No! No!” right in my ear have to stop.

Do any of you have a situation where you tell your kids to do (or not do) something, and for the most part they listen? How do you balance kid freedom with parental freedom?

I have been giving my life away to the children, and that’s not helping any of us. I’m ready to take it back.

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