This week we separated the boy’s room. After several years of sleeping stacked on a creaky hand me down bunkbed, we decided it was time for everyone to have their own space. Although we have an extra room, they always enjoyed each other’s company. I’m sure there is something to comforting to the familiar routine of inside jokes after lights out and drifting off of your brother’s light snores. But as children grow and the more they bicker its nice to have their own safe space to send them off to, to keep the peace and to establish independence of responsibility in caring for self and boundaries.
And at the same time, if you believe in coincidence, the entire world seems to have been sent to our rooms. Whether by mandate or societal pressure, social distancing and self isolating are kitchen table terms now adays. We set off on a new normal of unknowns.
Similar to how this new world this feels foreign and a bit scary, my youngest is not too pleased with his new found “isolation” in his own room. And I say “isolation” because I can hear him drop a coin from my bedroom, we are that close together. But alone within his room, the walls echo a bit more, there’s a tad more silence to the silent. The dark feels thicker, a bit darker. Even I can sense the tiny space stretches to vast territory as I tuck him in at night. Theres a very obvious eerie absence of his constant protective companion.
So I do what mommies do.
A good mix of “get over it” and being softer. Taking measures to promote a sense of ownership and belonging. Empowering him into independence. We took a very brave trip into the community to shop for his new special space. Lots of hand sanitizer. He picked out a fake cactus, a Post Malone journal and a box of glow in the dark stars. We went home and placed the first two items in their set location where they would sure to be forgotten, and then went through the painstaking dance of decorating his ceiling with stars.
In the light of day they appear to be grey-green five pointed blobs, a lackluster promise to hopeful eyes. He shut off all the lights and closed the curtain but with the glow of the sun peeking in we failed to see the possibility in those scattered stars. 7pm, I told him.
In the next hours as he counted down we watched the news, learning that school would be cancelled for another week or so, that there would be no trips to the skate park, no proms, no celebrations of 100 people or more and that even Disneyland’s magic had gone dark. My breath double in pace and half in breadth. All the twinkling stars on my calendar fade.
He counted down the hours and right at 7 pm when the sun sank beneath the sea and with our world changing by the minute, he ran around the house shutting off all the lights and entered his room to pull the chord, canceling the final glowing lamp. His ceiling came alive. And I mean alive. I have seen many a star stickered ceiling since the 90s but nothing beats seeing the wonder and satisfaction through your child’s eyes.
The glowing of the pointed stars pointed at each other almost gleeful and proud. We laid in his bed to admire our work, sought the shapes between them. The room, still as silent as it was the night before, felt much different. No longer could he notice that distinct echo, instead we could hear the crickets sing to the sky and felt the curtain shifting in a comforting breeze. We excitedly went through out bedtime routine… wiggle your toes, roll your ankles, stretch your legs out long and breath a long breath as you release into sleep.
As our communities shift into closures and cancellations, it can feel like a lights out of sorts. A dark new world that we are feeling our way through by touch alone, not able to see the way out. When the world goes dark like this, other things can become illuminated. That which we never noticed before, including the good within. The hope, patience and helpful nature. Our creative heart comes, looking to our home as a source of inspiration instead of looking to exterior forms of entertainment.
And this is no little house on the prairie, folks. We still have memes to make us laugh and docuseries to fill our hours and endless social media sources to keep us connected. The only true black out is our constant drive to keep our schedules filled to the brim with demands that are damn near impossible to maintain. This is a fearful time and I don’t want to minimize that. But it is also a time of slowing down, of checking in with our bodies and the loved ones around us. A time of watching the sunset and wondering where the day went or wondering how we made it through another day. As we distance from the outside world we also get to reconnect with and reclaim our spaces and I think there is magic in that.
Update: I woke up this morning and found big bro sleeping on the floor of little bro. Some things are slow to change.