A couple of weeks ago, I had an epiphany about why I couldn’t turn our extra room into a guest room. I kept the door shut, blocking out the boxes and the chaos, unless Mr. Gray was ironing or I was grabbing something off the printer.
Across the short hallway, our son’s room was filled with toys and Legos that he had to put away every night before bed. His creative processes and pretend play had to stop because I didn’t like tucking him into bed in a messy room (this is two-fold: my own need to go to bed with a tidy house but also a need to not trip and die in the middle of the night when we go in to check his sugar).
One night as we got ready to say prayers, the three of us were all piled into the boy’s bed, and I reminded him to straighten or pick up something first thing in the morning. Mr. Gray gave me a look and quietly said, “Lay off the room a little.” It was just what I needed to realize that the room situation didn’t really portray the “yes mom” model I generally go for. I prefer to pick my battles, say yes when I can, and let the boy explore and learn. Sure, there are boundaries and confines, but mostly, yes works.
Thursday at lunch, with a living room full of trucks, tractors, Peppa Pig’s camper van, and who knows what else (no Legos because I banned those from the living room), I said to Mr. Gray, “Maybe we should make that extra room a playroom.” By 6:00 that evening, it was.
I’m pretty sure it’s the best idea I’ve ever had. Until it got better.
You see, that first night, he kept bringing toys into the living room to play so he could watch TV. He still had to break down take apart, and completely stop what he was doing when it was time for bed. Sure, he just threw it all in the room and closed the door, but he couldn’t continue the next day or anything.
Nonna had a small TV, and we had a Blu-ray player that I wanted out of the living room anyway, so we decided to try a TV in the playroom.
Now, if you had told me EVER that I would be a proponent of putting a TV in the playroom, I would have laughed and called you crazy. But here’s the thing: he goes in there, turns on a show, listens to it, and plays (and plays and plays). He pauses it when he walks out or comes to eat, but he’s not generally focused on it. He is engrossed in his play. He is able to play well when he has a space to play, pretend, and elaborate. When we have to leave or stop or go to bed, he can leave what he’s doing and finish later.
Now when I walk into his bedroom to tuck him in, I am not flustered or frustrated with the explosion of toys that’s going on. It’s calm, peaceful, a place to work at his desk or rest. Things are in their place, and there isn’t a whole lot of reason for them not to be. It has completely changed the demeanor of our bedtime routine for the better. And I can read a book peacefully in the living room without having to block out Peppa’s accent.
It’s a win-win.