‘I’m struggling to find someone to move Dylan’s wardrobe for a reasonable price.’ I told my daughter on the phone last night.
Then: ‘why do you want to move Dylan’s wardrobe?’
I explained that as it wasn’t being used much anymore I thought it would be nice for Dylan to have at his care home. ‘And anyway’, I added, ‘I’m going to move Dylan into my room. So he’ll have plenty of cupboards. ‘
My daughter hasn’t lived with me since 2010 (apart from two brief periods) but her attic bedroom has stood unused in that time. I don’t suppose she is alone among grown children in wanting her room to remain intact after having left home. ‘It’s completely understandable’, a girlfriend said to me: ‘children need to know there is a room for them, even when they’re adults’.
I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been learning to live in the space left by my second departed child. My daughter seems settled, living close but independently. Dylan is settling too, living slightly further away but independently of me with support. There would be a home with me for either or both of them if they needed it, but I suspect this would only arise through crisis; the reality is that Dylan needs more support than I can give and my daughter less. Surely I can’t keep my space configured as contingency forever?
I don’t suppose, either, that I’m the only parent who has sacrificed their preferred house space to the needs of growing children. Although I eyed up the attic room for myself when we moved here seven years ago, I gave way to my daughter, remembering how I had yearned for such a space as a teenager. But how crazy that it should stand empty now when I could be enjoying it? Or that Dylan’s room (which would make a perfect writing space) is only used once a week?
It was this dangerous thought trail which led me to hatch the wardrobe plot.
‘I’m going to move up to the attic’ I continued. ‘So that your brother can have my room when he stays overnight. It will be better for him. A double bed. More space. I think he’ll like it.’
‘And I’m getting Dylan’s room decorated. So I need to move the wardrobe this week. I’m going to use Dylan’s room as my study. Or at least that’s the plan. I think.’
Time to change the subject.
So last night I couldn’t sleep. I was worried about my plan. If my daughter was unenthusiastic about the proposal then how might Dylan react? He had a bigger stake in it after all – my daughter left home long ago whereas as far as Dylan is concerned this is still his home.
Because of the importance of home, during a transition meeting I was advised to buy duplicates of Dylan’s belongings rather than bring them from home. Some things are easy to get copies of but others are impossible – his much-loved VHS collection and dog-eared books for example. Dylan has been doggedly transporting a small selection between the care home and our home but he has not had the majority of his collection with him during the week. I sometimes open Dylan’s bedroom door while he is away in the week – just to look or to stand a while – and always it is his book shelves I notice. ‘He must be missing them’, I think.
So last Sunday, as we were preparing to return to the care home after the weekend, I asked: ‘Would you like to take your book shelves and books with you? Then you could just bring home your favourites at the weekend?’ Dylan seemed not only untroubled by the suggestion but relieved and he happily helped pack and transport his books to the care home. But that doesn’t mean, I chided myself in the night, that he would be happy to switch bedrooms. And things had been going so well it would be awful to unsettle Dylan through such a selfish change.
What I didn’t mention to my daughter on the phone was that I had already started preparing the ground.
‘The painter will come to paint your room’ I had told Dylan at the weekend while we were packing his books. ‘Maybe blue.’
‘Blue’ Dylan replied.
I wasn’t sure how much Dylan had understood but as it’s usually more than I suspect I kept going. He would have to sleep in my room while his room was decorated, I said: ‘But all your things will be in mummy’s room. And if you like sleeping there, it can be Dylan’s room’.
Was it because I had told Dylan this that I went ahead with my plan this morning? Because despite my doubt-filled night I didn’t ring and cancel the decorator; Dylan has shown himself to be capable of growth and change in the last few weeks and perhaps he would be disappointed if, this weekend, he discovered that his room hadn’t been painted after all. And who knows – perhaps re-arranging things to suit me will also please him?
I was about to post this when my daughter called. The blessed postscript to this entry is that she likes the changes I have made; the rooms are better now she says. Fingers crossed that Dylan agrees 🙂