The Room Where No Children Shall Pass

When I was little, my grandparents lived on a sprawling ranch in the Florida swamplands (Florida swamplands = all of Florida.) To a kid this place was heaven; orange trees dotted the fields, just waiting for me and my siblings to shimmy up and pluck a juicy sun-warmed orange and eat it while still tucked up high in the branches. They owned horses, and though most of them weren't tame enough for us to ride them, from a very young age we learned how to approach a horse and feed it slices of apples, the right way to stroke down the white patches on their long muzzles; we even woke up early one morning to watch a brand-new foal take his first wobbly steps. We'd spend hours making up imaginary adventures on the thick grass of the pastures, the towering haystacks in the barn, the sloping shores of the pond. They even had a swimming pool. Their house was our play-time empire.

But there was one room inside that we could only stand looking in wistfully from the threshold, voices lowered to a murmur. It was The Room Where No Children Shall Pass: white brushed suede couches, plush ivory-colored carpet, fragile knick-knacks beckoning enticingly from high shelves. Everything about this room said touch me. Mostly because we couldn't.

Not that we didn't try. We learned the hard way that the pristine carpet was so thick and vacuumed so often and so thoroughly that sneaking across it on a dare would leave footprints. Sometimes we'd lay on our bellies on the edge of The Room and the living room just to run our hands over the lush pile.

The rules for The Room relaxed over time, too many grandchildren to keep tabs on probably; but the lesson was still embedded deep in our young psyches: There are places that children shouldn't go.

With newer generations it seems like this is less and less of a concern. With my own kids certainly there isn't a place in our house they don't claim as theirs. Not a well cared for room that is only for adults to do adult things, like complete a sentence or relax for all of a minute. Not our bedroom which has long been the domain of adults doing other adult activities. Not even our bed, where all three of them spent their early months and years; where they never hesitate to come back to during a thunderstorm or a bad dream.

We see it everywhere, too. Kids at R-rated movies late at night. Babies at bars. Pint-sized protesters holding up neon poster boards and shouting along to directives that they can't fully understand. Gone is the trend of the adult-only room, but is this a bad thing?

I know I'm certainly glad we're past the days where children were to be seen and not heard, where being young meant being marginalized and disrespected. I always want my kids to feel valued and heard and that they are an important part of this family. But then I remember those days of swinging from tree branches, and pretending to hunt alligators with spare car parts we found behind the garage. While inside the adults sat on plush sofas, in a room with even plusher carpet, sipping Bloody Marys and having actual conversations not punctuated by requests for juice or squabbles over toys; and I can't help but wonder if they were on to something after all.


yeah write

60 comments:

  1. oh i hear you. i, too, come from a time when kids were to be seen and not heard. and i am glad those days are gone but sometimes i wonder if things have gone a little too far in the other direction. i like to think we have a good balance in our home, in our little family.

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  2. I try to have a good balance with my family, but it sure can be hard. It doesn't help when my parents and inlaws visit because they are firmly in the era of kids should be seen and not heard. They look at us as though we are too lenient.

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    1. Yeah it seems like this is kind of a new parenting issue that past generations didn't worry themselves with too much. Bit of a grand experiment.

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  3. I hear ya. Kids aren't just short adults...

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    1. They really aren't. It's hard to remember that sometimes though!

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  4. My grandparents had a special, no touch room too. I agree. I don't want to marginalize my children, but having a place just to myself would be refreshing and make me a more relaxed individual.

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  5. I think we have to find a good balance - I totally agree that kids should be included and treated as important. But on the other hand, they need boundaries and we need space!

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    1. A difficult balance, yeah. I shouldn't have to lock myself in the bathroom to get some peace! (And even then...)

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  6. Jill I loved this post. There was a show called "Grumpy old men" on BBC Prime, in the one episode one of the men said, "When we were children adults ruled they were the most important, now that we are adults children rule."

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  7. Something we do where I live, is we use our garages as grown up rooms. Children and teens are welcome to visit, but if a group of adults are together, they are discouraged from lingering. We're close enough if needed, but still get that valuable adult time and conversation. Usually there's a kids gathering in the house, and an adult one in the garage.

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    1. That's a great idea. No garage here, but the idea of carving a place for both groups to gather nearby but separate.

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  8. I am hearing you! There is no area of our home that in off limits. And, while I don't want them to feel like they can't come in my room, it would be fabulous to have some space.

    Aside for places and spaces, there are topics, conversations, and certain things that kids should just not be a part of. I loved your examples of those.

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    1. Thanks! It does seem like we've swung a bit too far in the opposite direction. Wonder if it will swing back or if we can find some kind of equilibrium.

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  9. I wasn't allowed to go in my parents room. Still today I can't picture what it looks like on the inside... And that is kind of funny. But, my kids are allowed in my room - they have never slept in our bed. The one place that is off limits.

    It is amazing how open people are with things they talk about - I forget that people didn't used to talk about finances with their 10 year olds (we don't) ... but you know. Great post.

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    1. Thank you! We could go in their room but were certainly discouraged from spending too much time there. I feel like I'm still trying to find that balance, and without many good examples to work from, you know?

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  10. Your house sounds like mine - children everywhere even though I only have two :-) I am glad my children have free reign of our house. But, as you stated, I also think it's important for kids to have time and space to be kids without parents lurking over their shoulders directing their moves. Perhaps it's not the kids who need to give us space (although sometimes that would be nice) but rather us who need to give them space.

    Very thought provoking. Nicely done :-)

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    1. Thank you! I do try to step back and allow them space, just sometimes seems like it doesn't go both ways! Oh well, I'm still working on it.

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  11. A blast from the past! We did not have too many of these households in the middle-class neighborhood in San Fransicso where I grew up, but I'm sure those beautiful Victorians had such grown-ups only plush rooms! We were, however, as kids, kicked out of the house at all hours before dinner. I think that was great! We had more independence, lots of kids hung out together, and the city felt safe back then. Now most kids are indoors or if outside, anywhere, accompanied by an adult.

    My son, for the longest time (because of his Down syndrome) was only allowed in certain parts of our apartment, and now our house. He just got into everything (like catbox poop!).

    But FINALLY he has "mellowed out" and can act, dare I say, normal (and not grab everything in site, mostly). It feels great! But he knows that mom and dad's room is not his playground! My hubby works a hard 40 hours and goes to school at night and needs his space. And what that teaches our son is the value of "personal space" so I think it is OK to have limits in one's house (and a plush room, if you can afford it!).

    Love your writing style!

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    1. Thank you! Ah, finding treasures in the cat box, fun times. We were definitely kicked out of the house in the morning and didn't come home until dinner. I told my kids recently about this, and how we'd drink from a hose if we got thirsty because we weren't allowed back inside and they were horrified! Amazing how different it is now. One of these days maybe I'll have a plush room of my very own...

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  12. Sometimes it's hard to decide. If you include them into our adult-things, they grow up too fast and miss out on the fun-kids-things.

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    1. Very true. I'm still trying to figure out the middle ground, gotta be around here somewhere.

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  13. this is a hard balance! you speak to it so well! never would i want a place that they felt inferior to, but yet, there are places {for both the good of parents and children, who are in fact...well, children} that is not for them to be yet.

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    1. It's tricky, for sure. Carving out your own space without making them feel isolated or left out, but some places/things are really not meant for kids!

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  14. Good post! Got me thinking about balance and stuff...

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    1. Thanks! Let me know if you find it, I'm still working it out.

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  15. Wow - that was a really thought provoking post. I remember rooms like that, and hadn't made the connection. I frequently bemoan the fact that parents are overprotective (myself included) but never flipped it around that there are downsides for adults as well. I'd LOVE a room that was kid free :-)

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    1. Thank you! A relic of the past now, really, those adult-only rooms. It would be nice to have *some* space, however. Or at least some carpeting that wasn't stained...

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  16. "...room that is only for adults to do adult things, like complete a sentence..."
    Oh my word I laughed!
    I also think that having that balance is important, but now I wish I had a room to fill with pretty things and to complete sentences in! Haha.
    This was a great post!

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    1. Thank you! One of these days I'll even complete a whole thought uninterrupted, I know it! Some day we'll have our grown-up rooms...

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  17. I had a friend who called my first house (pre-kids) the "White House". How times change... now my house is all in earth tones and sofas are chocolate brown leather...easy clean up and hides the dirt!

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    1. Oh yes, anything white in my house is just asking for grape juice to be spilled all over it. I won't even buy white clothes. Too risky.

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  18. Awesome. I do long for a halfway point between the room not stepped into (at my friend's house)and a 12-year-old boy opening a closed bathroom door while I'm peeing in peace (if only).

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    1. There has to be some kind of middle ground, right? I always get knocks on the door, "What are you doing in there?!" Like it's some kind of mystery. What do you think I'm doing? (hiding, actually)

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  19. Honestly, I have to say adults-only isn't necessarily a bad thing. I say this as a parent, too. I think there has to be a balance between the two.

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    1. It's true, there should be a balance! I'm working on it.

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  20. Well, I think a dog should be allowed in every room of the house and be allowed to sleep at the foot of the bed or on the bed if the owner doesn't mind. So, I certainly think a kid should have the run of the place. Better to give a kid their own space, that's just theirs (within safety precautions, of course), and then they won't want to bother you. Maybe...

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    1. Oh yeah, the dog has the run of the house, too. He even sleeps in our bed. Spoiled. They have a playroom (the kids, not the dog) which is supposed to be their separate space, theoretically. Never quite works out that way though!

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  21. My best friend's mom had a room like that. My wife got to be officially invited to sit in there before I ever did.

    My grandmother had a brass crab ashtray that sat in her foyer and I was never allowed to touch it. When my kids went for the first time, she offered the crab to my son to play with. Mwhen she passed, I asked if I could have the crab and today I touch it at time I want.,,

    WG
    http://itsmynd.com

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    1. I love that you got the crab just so you could touch it whenever you wanted! Even after the rules relaxed, I never felt comfortable in that room. It was too weird.

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  22. My Dad and stepmother had a room where I wasn't allowed. The perfect sofa (avocado green) and dining room where I was never allowed to slurp my Honeycombs. As a parent, I have way less boundaries. And sometimes, I think I need to have more.

    Loved your post.

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    1. Thank you! Avocado green, perfect! (They had that color shag carpeting in other parts of the house. It was awesome.) It's a hard balance to work out, I think.

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  23. Beautifully rendered. Full of vibrant images and questions. Thrilled to have stumbled to this corner of the bloggy woods :)

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    1. Thank you so much! It was a wonderful place, I miss it a lot. (Even the forbidden room.)

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  24. Sometimes I WISH I had a room where the kids weren't allowed. Alas, we don't have enough rooms. I would settle for a room where our two cats (with claws) and our two dachshunds (sporadic pottytraining) weren't allowed.

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    1. I do, too sometimes. Or just for a little while anyway... We only have the one dog but he follows me around all day so it seems like more. You know, just to be absolutely sure I don't get any alone time.

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  25. Great post! Who wants one of those rooms anyway? I remember feeling that way as a kid about certain places, too...the fact that it was forbidden just made it more appealing.

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    1. It really did. And it was just so clean and white and pristine. So very tempting!

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  26. Such a great post. We don't have any 'adult only' space in our house either and I love that my son feels a part of our family, but oh... for one stinkin' minute of conversation with my husband without 'mom! mom! mommy! MOMMY! MAMA! MOM!' dipping in every three minutes.

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    1. Yeah it would be lovely, wouldn't it? Just for a little while. Enough time for a conversation and a drink or two. Our dreams are simple anymore. (Mine are always asking for food. I swear I feed them...)

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  27. Great post. Really, I wish I could have a room where children couldn't be but it's just not how it goes here. Ahh well.

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    1. Me, too. Maybe some day. For now I'll hide in the bathroom I supposse. (Which usually doesn't work either.)

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  28. I never understood the appeal of those kids-off rooms, and then I had kids. If only I had some place in this house where I could finish a sentence, or hide away.
    The R rated movies, late night restaurant dinners, and other adult orientated activities, I don't get having kids there. I mean, like Gia said, they aren't just short adults.

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    1. Very true, there has to be some kind of boundary. We should at least be able to enjoy our cocktails in peace.

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  29. I totally agree with Gia--kids are NOT short adults. We need something in the middle of "seen and not heard" and "come out to the bar with us." It was nice to play with my cousins with no supervision, though, while all the adults talked.

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    1. Yes, a middle ground is probably best. Just doesn't seem like it's the norm nowadays for kids to go off and have wild adventures. Too bad, really.

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  30. This was very interesting. I love how you took this post from the room at your grandparents' house to places that kids really shouldn't be, like R-rated movies at 10pm.

    I think I'm probably too lazy to have a kid free room :), but I did teach my kids about not butting into conversations. That goes further than you would think.

    By the way, your childhood time at your grandparents' house sounds idyllic. Ellen

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    1. It does seem like a lot of work, policing that sort of thing. I mean, an all white room! Not worth the stress. We're working on the not interrupting thing, hoping it'll take root one of these days. (It really was a special place. I miss it very much.)

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