Covering parenting and child development issues
"A chair is still a chair, even when there's no one sitting there...." (Burt Bacharach)
When my daughter was in elementary school, we bought her a desk. An inexpensive fiberboard unit that occupied the back corner of the playroom, it held all matter of school supplies and art supplies and even had a pull-out shelf for the keyboard of the computer she did not yet own. She did her homework there a few times, but more often, she gravitated to the dining room table where she could spread out and be in the middle of things. She used the desk when she wanted a space to draw or color, but eventually, it became a collection spot for homeless items before finally being abandoned completely and making its way to the curb -- in pieces -- as the playroom morphed into a room more suited to the needs of a middle schooler.
It wasn't the first such reincarnation of that room, or the first desk the room had hosted. When we bought the house, that room -- a downstairs bedroom, closer to the bathroom than any other room in the house -- was a sort of catch-all room at first, gradually becoming an office with the addition of a desk, and then a desktop computer, in the years when we were a family of two.
After my daughter was born, the room reverted to its natural, wild state -- once again becoming a catch-all spot, this time for items that had been displaced the arrival of a baby and later for things that needed to be kept out of the reach of a curious toddler. After a brief foray into house-hunting, which amounted to a fruitless search for a family room and a nicer kitchen, we opted to stay put and carve those spaces out of the home we had. The room was once again excavated and became a playroom.
Since the departure of my daughter's first desk, that room has gradually become a small family room. A television and its various electronic accoutrements hold a place of honor across from an inexpensive sofa on which only two people can really sit comfortably. Still, the room serves its purpose -- a more grown-up purpose than it served a decade ago -- as it gradually becomes more my husband's turf than my daughter's.
A few weeks ago, my daughter (now a sophomore in high school) expressed her desire to once again have a desk. The homework that had previously been completed at the dining room table has expanded to high school proportions, outgrowing the cluttered rectangle of faux marble that once contained it, necessitating all manner of electronic study buddies in the form of a laptop, and a phone that plays music and keeps her in touch with her friends while she works.
We discussed the logistics of working this new piece of furniture into an already overcrowded house, and settled on her bedroom as its potential home. And so last week, when my husband decided he wanted a different filing cabinet for our household files -- one that afforded easier access than the side-loading drawers in our current file cabinet, located in the playroom/family room -- the growing pains began again. By the end of the weekend, files had been transferred into their new home and by the end of last week, a new desk stood under a window in my daughter's bedroom.
With this final addition, my daughter's graduation from her playroom is complete. Though she will still stake her claim on the sofa in the back room when she wants to watch television, or perhaps hang out back there to watch a movie with a friend, she has transitioned into a teenager who seeks out the privacy of her room -- her own space -- for nearly all of the activities that matter to her.
And so it is with both families and houses. Growth and change in one necessitate change -- and sometimes growth -- in the other as well. Rooms change as lives change, reflecting the people we have become while still providing space for remnants of the past, remnants that resurface with each new project or addition.
As I sit on the sofa in the living room, typing this on a laptop instead of a desktop, my husband is sorting through files in a room that was once a playroom and my daughter is listening to music in the room that was once her nursery. In separate rooms and in separate pursuits, we remain independent yet interconnected, dancing the dance of family life.