It’s been six years since we moved into our little house in the valley, a fact so unbelievable to me, I have to keep checking the math to be sure. But the math is correct. In the spring of 2008, when we downsized from our two-story, 2200 square-foot home, to a one-story, 1700 foot home, our boys were nine, seven, and four. Still little kids.
Even though we’d given up a lot of space, our new address seemed spacious after purging the clutter of a decade and actually decorating instead of ad-libbing with hand-me-downs and garage sale finds, as we’d always done before. The move reflected our shift to a new stage of family life–the middle years–where we would feel less squeezed for time and energy.
Fast forward at warp speed, and those little kids are big kids: 15, 13, and 10. We have two teenage boys. In case you don’t know, teenage boys rarely exist in ones and twos. They are pack animals. They travel in a cloud of testosterone-oozing, cologne-drenched baby-men. We call it the brozone.
The brozone comes in, not on little cat feet, but on the thudding soles of man-sized Vans and Converse All-Stars. It would come in on skateboards, but even “cool” moms have their limits. And I do hope I’m a cool mom—not cool in the sense of “anything goes,” but in the sense of providing a place where the brozone feels welcome. Because I would much rather wake up every weekend to three or four adolescent boys sprawled every which way on our living room sectional, hungover from nothing more than an all-night game of Halo 3, than not know exactly where my sons are after dark and who’s with them. I would rather the brozone come into our home and inhale all the cereal than wonder what’s available to inhale at an unsupervised party. We’re fortunate in that most of our sons’ friends have parents whose sensibilities are more or less in line with ours, but there’s always a kid whose mom or dad is parenting from a different place altogether. I’d rather those kids came to our house to hang out than vice versa.
It’s not that I’m trying to keep them on lock down. I’m no helicopter mom, and they’re all good boys. Teenagers need safe places where they feel comfortable, and I’m happy to give them one.
I would also like to have the family room back on weekend nights and mornings. And to maybe cut back the number of gaming controllers and consoles on the TV table by two-thirds.
My 13-year-old would also like to have his own room. He’s been sharing with his little brother since our first teenager graduated up to a room of his own, and he’s emphatically over it. I don’t blame him. When the youngest and oldest have friends over, he really has no place to go. He’s been more than accommodating, and a change is past due.
The fact is, we could all use more space. The reality is, moving or adding on isn’t feasible right now. And even if it were, would it make sense to size up for the sake of a few years? In less time than we’ve been in this house, our oldest will have graduated from high school, and this nest will begin emptying. I don’t want the brozone to get too comfortable.
So we’ve got to work with what we’ve got: 1700 square feet, three bedrooms, two baths, and a budget based on what’s left after orthodontics get started this summer–not much. Somebody’s going to have to use her imagination. It also looks like somebody is giving up their master bedroom to make way for a teen lair, where two baby men can hang out, study, play games, draw, and sleep without being on top of each other. It’s a daunting sacrifice, but a temporary one. We’ll either reclaim our space when they start going to college, or we’ll have moved by then. In the meantime, I’m hoping we gain more privacy than we lose. Call it a strategic retreat.
Things will get started as soon as my oldest goes to summer camp next month. I’ll be chronicling the process for moral support and motivation. Meantime, you’re welcome to check out my Teen Lair Pinterest board. I’d love your ideas–and if you’re raising, or have raised teens, your own solutions for giving everybody some space.