a blog by wallace winfrey

Something overlooked about having children…


I was thinking today (“I thought I could see smoke comin’ from your ears!”, as my dad used to say) about the living arrangements between parents and children, and it occurred to me that something frequently overlooked in this area is not just how the wee ones and their parents relate in the traditional parent-child relationship, but also how they relate as roommates.
Before Jalen came along, Melissa and I never lived together. The five-plus years we dated beforehand we certainly spent a lot of time together, but it wasn’t until Jalen came along that we both actually had the bulk of our worldly possessions under one roof. It took us quite a bit of time to figure out how to not just be life partners, husband and wife, etc. – but also how to live together. We’re still learning.
I think my parent’s generation might think it was funny to think of one’s relationship with their child in this way, but in the 21st century with all it’s new-fangled ways of thinking, it’s largely unavoidable. I think it’s really come into focus for me too, now that we’ve got a baby and a 7-year-old, who have hugely different needs in their living arrangements.
Luka barely wants to be put down and wails if left alone (while he’s awake) for more than a minute. Jalen, on the other hand, craves personal space and treasures his alone time. I can relate. Alone time, for anyone beyond a certain age, is very valuable. “Alone time” and “personal space” are largely about boundaries, and with Jalen, I’m glad that it’s easy for us to establish and respect personal boundaries (at least as far as “living arrangements” go). I grew up in the sort of household (like many children) where my room and my space was something that was granted to me, could be searched and invaded at any given point, and could be taken away for punitive reasons at the drop of a hat. I think it was growing up in that sort of environment that made me a very poor roommate for many years after I had moved out of my parent’s house. I had no real sense of effective boundaries for myself, and as a result, it was hard to respect others’ or expect them to respect mine.
In our household though, Jalen’s room is his own. Yeah, when he’s throwing a fit and trying to avoid us when we need to talk to him, I have no qualms about following him into his room after he’s slammed the door to shut me out – but this isn’t an absolute power for Melissa and I. We try to make sure Jalen knows that his room is his room, and if he doesn’t feel like being around us, it’s (most of the time) OK for him to retreat to his space without fear of us entering at will. Because of that, we don’t seem to have any issues whatsoever with Jalen disrespecting the boundaries we set in regards to ourselves. I have a lot of cool, fun stuff in my studio, not the least of which are some still-in-their-blister-packs Micronauts and Simpsons action figures displayed on the wall. I know for a fact Jalen would like nothing more than to take them off the wall, open them, and play with them. It’s quite maddening for him really, to see toys still in their packaging just collecting dust – yet I know he’ll respect the boundaries I’ve set for him in regards to my things.
I can only conclude that the reason for this is because we share a mutual, healthy respect for each other’s boundaries. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s there and it largely works, which is more than I (or most kids of previous generations) can say for my living arrangement growing up. I’m not bitter or anything, but let’s just say it was a real drag having to hide my Dungeon Master’s Guide under the carpet or worry about having my “Satanic” punk rock tapes seized and pitched into the trash when I was younger. I’m glad I won’t have to worry about that with Jalen. If he wants Satanic punk rock, he can just grab it off the server ;-)

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