My sweet Oliver is turning 3 years old in a few weeks, which means that Penelope and Oliver have been room sharing for about the same time.
I always knew that my children room sharing would be a magical, but the moments of love, of laughter, of heartwarming moments that it has brought, is more than I could have ever dreamed of… and they just keep coming.
As their room transitions through their years – from cribs, to beds, to now a bunk bed- different spaces inside the room are created that grow with them. Lately, their love of books is what inspired the reading closet, and watching the room evolve with them, is a magic that I’m so privileged to witness.
Tonight, we read two books under the “Chistmas lights” as Oliver says. We cuddled and sang, and after two songs, the room was quiet. The room was lit by the twinkle of the lights, and it was a simple but magical backdrop to my babies’ dreams.
Time and time again, my children remind me it doesn’t take much. Their shared room could be half the size it is, and they would still have everything they need.
In a way, creating the reading closet showed me that even if their room was that little space, as long as it was full of love and magic, it would be perfect.
* Reading closet inspired by one of the mommy bloggers I follow on Instagram who created a beautiful #closetcastle for her daughter (picture here)
When I picked my children up after work today, my mother told me that when they heard the song “Los Pollitos Dicen” on an old CD that she had found, they said “Mama”.
I am writing this for you, my darlings, Penelope and Oliver, so that you always remember the words to the songs your mother sang to you before bed time.
Growing up abroad, the lullabies my mother sang to me were different than the ones my friends knew. As a young child, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” was a song that many of my friends, myself included, could easily join in to sing along to, but not if I sang “Los Pollitos Dicen”.
The lullabies my children know will also be different than the ones their little friends do. When they walk through the children’s book aisle in a store or a library, they won’t see an anthology of the songs they heard growing up. For mothers raising children in a country different than their birth country, this is a common scenario.
I remember being a two day old mom, a baby in my arms, deep in the newborn haze, and as the most natural response to my child crying, singing a lullaby I hadn’t sang in years. The melody and words so deeply memorized in my soul, that even after years of not singing it, so easily came through me.
I have sang that song to both of you every night since the day you were born. Even your father learnt to sing Los Pollitos Dicen, and he sings it even if I’m not there.
Los pollitos dicen Pío pío pío Cuando tienen hambre Y cuando tienen frio
La gallina busca El maíz y el trigo Les da la comida Y les presta abrigo
Pío pío pío
Pío pío pa
Pío pío pío
Pin Pon es un muñeco de trapo y de cartón Se lava la carita con agua y con jabón
Se desenreda el pelo con peine de marfil, y aunque se da estirones no llora ni hace así.
Pin Pon dame la mano con un fuerte apretón, que quiero ser tu amigo Pin Pon Pin Pon Pin Pon
No matter the song, if you haven’t sang it in a while, you forget the lyrics. Lullabies can be similar. The songs we learn so well in our childhood, the songs that bring us back to moments, to feelings of love and peace in our hearts before going to sleep; those parts of the song we will never forget, the lyrics are harder to remember.
And so my darlings, I write the words here for you, the same way that I sang them to you, so that if you ever have a hard time remembering the words, this help you remember everything else.
Muñequita le dijo el ratón ya no llores tontita no tienes razón. Tus amigos no son los del mundo porque te olvidaron en este rincón.
Nosotros no somos así.
Te quiere la escoba y el recogedor. Te quiere el plumero y el sacudidor. Te quiere la araña y el viejo veliz. También yo te quiero, y te quiero feliz.
I never imagined that this little room in the west corner of our home would hold such a special place in my heart. It is just a room, but symbolically, it’s much more than that. It’s the space my children have shared since Oliver was one month old.
At one point, this room had two cribs and a glider for middle of the night feeds, and now, a big girl bed and only one crib left; a space transitioning just as quickly as my children are growing.
And in that growth, so is their love for each other.
I remember researching articles (the few that were out there at the time) about room sharing before having Oliver, and reading about the benefits of children room sharing.
From a practical side, it’s incredibly beneficial.
Putting laundry away takes less time. They share a drawer so space is limited, but because of that, it forces us to only keep the clothes they actually wear. Bed time routine is done once with both of them at the same time, in the same space.
Financially, the kids sharing a room allow us the possibility to have a house with fewer rooms if we needed to reduce the financial load of a mortgage. Also, we only needed to invest in one of everything; one sound machine, one changing mat, one monitor, one diaper pail, because again, it’s all shared.
From the emotional side, the kids room sharing has given them, and us, more than we could have imagined.
A few weeks ago, when doing my nightly check in on the kids before going to bed, I shined the light on my phone towards Penelope’s bed, and it was empty. I walked over to the crib, and there they were. My babies, lying with their feet towards each other’s heads, in the most peaceful sleep you could imagine.
As a mother, walking into that scene filled my heart with so much happiness, love, and just pride.
This was all them.
We didn’t ask Penelope to climb into the crib after bed time.
Oliver didn’t have to share his crib with her.
But they did.
With no sound or protest, they both quietly feel asleep together in each other’s company, sharing not only the crib, but their safety, peace and love for one another.
Children room sharing really comes down to this…
Kids are adaptable. Create a routine that is consistent, put love and joy into it, and the kids will love it. Make bedtime something that you all look forward to, and go to bed with both your cup and their cup full. Love them so much, that they learn to do the same with each other, and then just watch.
Is it doable? Absolutely.
Is it a routine that needs tweaking every now and then? Of course.
It feels like just yesterday, I was pregnant for the second time, full of that nesting energy again, and my husband and I had decided our children would room share. What was then Penelope’s room, turned into the shared nursery, and within those four walls, so many memories, evolution and growth. It’s the place where my babies rest, where they dream at night, and always in each other’s company. Their little shared room, a space that is so special to me.
My children have been room sharing for 7 months now, and it has been wonderful. I love so many parts of it; their little chats before they go to bed, their patience with each other, especially when one has a bad night, and their happiness when they see each other in the morning (even though they’ve been in the same room all night) makes my mama heart happy. Are there nights that are harder than others? Absolutely! To me, that’s just part of being a parent of young children though. They need us through the night sometimes, and it would happen whether they were in the same room or not.
When Oliver turned 3 months old, I wrote a blog post on how the room sharing was going, and the things we did to prepare for a smooth transition. One of the things I mention on there is keeping Penelope in her crib for as long as possible.
Last week, my husband and I were surprised to hear little footsteps outside our bedroom door at 5 in the morning, and then a little voice that said “Mami”.
Penelope learnt how to climb out of her crib!
I was not anticipating this transition so soon. Penelope is only 27 months old, and I was planning on keeping her in her crib until she was 5 (kidding). She slept well in her crib, she liked it, so why fix something that isn’t broken. But, of course, as with many things in parenthood, you may not be ready for a change, but they are, and you just have to go with the flow.
We decided to transition her straight into a twin bed with side rails, and she loves it! We bought the frame, mattress and side rails from IKEA, and since Penelope graduated her crib, we gave hers to Oliver, as her crib was nicer. Even with a larger piece of furniture in the room, it still feels as spacious as before.
The transition to big girl bed has gone much easier than I had expected, which I’m happy for, especially since I wasn’t expecting it, ha! The first 3 nights, it was as though she didn’t think she could get out of her bed at all, and she didn’t. The fourth night, once the novelty wore off, she took forever to fall asleep. She tried to open the door and leave her room, which we then closed, and she didn’t like, so she screamed and protested, then moved the rocking chair towards the wall so she could reach the switch to turn the lights on, and scream and protested some more. After a few minutes, my husband went back in (which is when he saw her standing on the rocking chair, ha!), told her it was “night night time”, and she settled for the night. The silver lining? Oliver slept through all of this! haha! One of the advantages of room sharing, you learn to sleep through A LOT of noise, ha! It’s been a little over a week since the transition, and other than that crazy fourth night, bed time routine is back to normal! Woohoo!
I sometimes still get the “Is she crazy?!?!” look when someone learns that my baby and toddler room share, but it really isn’t as impossible as it sounds. During transitions, like a move to a big girl bed, it can be a little nerve wracking, but then I think to myself; I’m not the first parent whose children room share, and I certainly won’t be the last. The experience itself has taught me a few things along the way too, so even if we had a third bedroom on the same floor as our other two, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
If you’re thinking/planning to have your children room share, from one mom to another…
Trust your gut. In my heart, I knew I wanted my children to room share, and I believed it would go well, and it has. They fed off our of energy that this was their normal, and that’s the way it has been.
Be Flexible and Adjust as needed. There have been times when one of them will go through periods of bad sleep (they are both still babies), and if we worried that they would wake/keep each other up, we would adjust. We’ve had nights when Penelope has slept in our bedroom/ guest bedroom in the play pen, and that’s OK. Once their sleep regulated, we would put them right back in the same room.
Babies are more adaptable than we think. The most common question I get when a someone learns that my children room share is, “Don’t they wake each other up?”. Penelope was pretty young (19 months old) when Oliver moved into the nursery, so she adjusted easily. Oliver hasn’t known anything other than room sharing all his life, so he didn’t have a choice, ha! They fall asleep to each other’s sounds, and almost sleep better for it. Penelope has only woken up a few times when I’ve nursed Oliver in the middle of the night, most of the time, she doesn’t even hear us. Also, White Noise Machine is a must when room sharing! So, no, they don’t wake each other up at night. If they did, I wouldn’t get much sleep at night, and I like sleep.
Separate them for naps. Daytime sleep is never as deep as it is as night, so the noises that they sleep through during the night, can wake them up in the day. They used to take day time naps together, but since Penelope’s naps are getting shorter, she would sometimes wake Oliver up before he was ready to during naps, so I decided to separate them. Oliver naps in the shared room, and Penelope either naps in our room or the guest bedroom. She will drop her naps before he does, so I wasn’t too worried about her not napping in the room.
Embrace the experience. On the nights they have 30 minutes of baby chit/chat before they fall asleep, and I’m annoyed because I just want them to fall asleep already, I realize the chit chat is exactly the magic of the room sharing experience. They are bonding over their little laughs and jokes, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. We have a third bedroom in our home, not on the same floor as our master and second bedroom, but the extra room is there. The day they request to have their own space, I will honor it, but for now, I am embracing everything that comes with room sharing… late night chats and all.
My babies are growing so fast, and so wonderfully. It’s still a little weird to walk into their room and no longer see two cribs, but now a big girl bed in there. Though it wasn’t a transition I had planned this early, at least now, I can sneak in a cuddle or two with my Penelope when I go and check in on them before I go to bed.
December 27th, 2016. This was the night. Tonight, the crib Oliver had been sleeping in, next to our bed, was moving back to the nursery. The goal was to get through bed time routine. We would handle middle of the night feeds as needed.
We finished bed time routine. Silence. Complete silence.
After a few minutes, Penelope got up and walked to the side of the crib closest to her brother and I. “Hiiii” and leaned in for a kiss. I kissed her back and she laid back down. Oliver finished nursing, I put him down, and walked out of the pitch black room. Oliver woke up to nurse 3 times that night, Penelope didn’t hear us, and they both woke up at 6:30 am. Their first bedtime together. Perfect. Just perfect.
My babies have been successfully room sharing since Oliver was one month old. Of course, not every night is as perfect as the first one. There are nights we hear Penelope shout “Hiiiiiiiiii Beeeeebbeee” or sing “ooooh ooooh” (part of her favorite Coldplay song) as soon as we walk out of the room, or nights Oliver takes a little bit longer to fall asleep, or days he tries to wake up very early. Most nights though, both kids are in bed by 7:00pm and wake up around 6:30 am… sometimes 7:30 am. I would call that a success.
The room sharing success wasn’t all luck (although I thank the Sleep Fairy daily anyway haha). We did do a few things to prepare. We finished the shared nursery early so Penelope could get used to the new layout and extra crib. We didn’t want new nursery and sibling happening at the same time. We also decided we would be keeping her in the crib for as lonnng as possible. She isn’t able to climb out and is happy in there, no reason to add another transition/change. Nope. When she’s 2.5/3 years old we will reevaluate big girl bed status [Big Girl Bed Update]. We got a white noise machine, and reinforced good sleep habits by continuing and staying consistent with her bed time routine. In the summer, it was easy to have exceptions because of summer activities/festivals/travels, but as much as we could, we would stick to the whole milk-bath- pj’s -books-songs-bed.
Oliver slept in our room for his first month. The first two weeks were survival mode, and frankly, he slept wherever and whenever. At around 2 weeks, since we were doing bed time routine with Penelope anyway, Oliver started to tag along. He began bed time routine early in life.Most nights, he would fall asleep after bed time routine, wake up an hour or two later and continue this ’till the morning. As the days and weeks passed, that first sleep stretch got longer and longer. By the time he moved to the nursery, his first sleep stretch was about 3-5 hours, with two or three nursing sessions before it was morning again. Today, at 12 weeks old, he falls asleep on his own, in his crib, and is sleeping a minimum of 9.5+hour stretches at night, with a handful of 11.5 hour nights. I can feel some of you mentally throwing tomatoes at me. I would be too (haha). But really, part of it is just Oliver (because my daughter didn’t sleep through the night ’till waaay later), but I do believe starting bed time routine early did help him understand that the “big sleep” was coming.
I watch them nap in the day, and I feel their sense of safety and security in each other’s company. As they have gotten used to falling asleep with each other’s noises (grunts, sneezes, whines, etc.) they almost seem to need that to fall asleep, but are also deeper sleepers for it. During day time naps, this is particularly helpful, as I can get whoever wakes up first (with a 95% success rate) out of the room without the other one waking up. Bed time routine is easier too, especially when doing it on your own (which admittedly, I’ve only done a few times. Thank you Husband ). Having everything in the same room; both sets of pjs, diapers, creams, plus both kids in the same space (even if one is in the crib while the other one is being changed) is easy and wonderful. You’re only doing bed time once too, as you have both kids at the same time (win!).
I know very well that room sharing isn’t for everyone, but for anyone considering it – it is both doable and wonderful. It has worked out so well for us and am so glad we decide to do it. Something about watching my babies fall asleep in the same room, and being able to share a beautiful state of peace together makes me so happy. And the feeling of walking into the nursery in the morning and seeing both of them smiling at me- amazing.