Friday, August 30, 2013

Space Invaders

I was planning on the title "Space Invaders" at the very same time as Tracey's recent blog post came up about the game popularized in the late eighties. Call it witchery, but I'm not talking about the game here. I'm talking about my two teenage step children moving in last night into our two-bedroom condo which will now temporarily be occupied by five. That's the kind of space invasion I mean. They'll be living with us for at least the school year, which starts in our district this coming Tuesday, although it is our hope that they will continue to live with us at least until they each graduate from high school. But of course, not in our current home. We had hoped to be moved out into a larger house by now, but our house search hasn't turned-up anything yet.

Until now, my husband and I  have been living comfortably with our 4-year-old in our two-bedroom condo, and our love for urban living has made us resist moving to a house, or the suburbs for many years. This has resulted in extraordinary creativity with the spaces we've invented and reinvented over the years. Thus far, through a lot of effort and some good advice, we've managed to live in great comfort in spite of our limited space. Like most urban residents, we sacrifice space for the conveniences of the city.  My husband loves biking back home from work every day, everything is within walking distance, and the community is close-knit. You don't get such bonuses in a big house in the suburbs.

By the way, our city-living plays a big part in home-schooling the little one. The growth and learning opportunities he gets from being a member of the urban community does wonders for his socialization skills. He knows the neighbors - young and old -,  the vendors, the streets, shops, and various play grounds! You should see how he crosses the street, or greets people in the elevator and makes conversations with them. A little off topic but keeping with the theme of space and invaders and elevators, here's a quick and funny short story..

Once my son and I got into the elevator of our building. A young man holding a motorcycle helmet was inside. My son (who's already sure he's going to visit the moon one day) looked up at him and said,

"Hi! Are you going to space?"

The young man was quite humored. An interaction ensued where he had my boy try on his helmet, and I captured it on my phone. And they say home-schooling isn't good for social skills!

So back to the space invaders.

Right now we're faced with the reality that we must soon find a new home to fit all five of us comfortably, but we have no interest in buying a house, and the rental market turnover here is slow. I've been recently convinced that buying is silly, and that in reality, one can afford to rent a much nicer home with his/her monthly income, than to purchase that same quality home on the same budget. That's my opinion, anyway.

So far, it's been very hard to find the perfect home. We saw some possibilities, but nothing stole our hearts. The only one we liked was priced too high and was rented to someone else before we even got the chance to take a second look.

With school starting on Tuesday, and so many changes going on for the kids at the same time, we decided not to rush things, but instead to clear and reorganize our current home and stick it out until we find the right place to move to. There was nothing else to do given the circumstances. For my husband and I, it was a small sacrifice for many future gains. But the kids saw it a little differently.

It took us about two days to completely empty our son's room of all his belongings. We got him a new loft bed which rises off the floor, creating extra storage/hiding space underneath. Much was thrown out and stored, and I know we really won't miss those things. We also bought a standup closet, so each teen could have their own closet space in the room.

Of course, the teens' first reaction was lukewarm. They were disappointed that a new home with a separate room for each, was not found in due time before school started. They didn't like the idea of rooming with each other, especially a brother and sister, not to mention squeezing in with their 4-year old brother and potentially having to tiptoe around his sleep patterns. They came with a lot of their personal belongings, too. My stepson brought about 25 pairs of 'prize' sneakers, all stored in their original boxes.

So they woke up this morning a little grumpy after their first night sleeping with unopened containers scattered around. I gave them each a budget and sent them on a walk to The Container Store to get whatever they wanted to help organize their things. Had we lived in the suburbs, I would have had to drive them. Anyway, I didn't blame them for their disappointment, but I also felt unappreciated because their dad and I  put a lot of work into clearing the room and making it workable for them. And it's not such a small room, either. We even got them a cool room divider they could decorate and personalize on each side. Oh, well...

Three hours later, to my utter surprise, they returned in great spirits, carrying bags of drawers and hangers and other stuff. Within minutes, the music in their room was blasting and they were humming along to the music as they organized and personalized their spaces.  Their little brother was in the room, happily helping, too. I was so humbled by that sight, by their new attitude, and by the graciousness, acceptance, and respect of the limited spaces they were assigned.

When they were done working, I walked into the room and was touched to see their creations.  Not perfect, but signature-teen style with walls fully decorated and personalized. It looked like they'd been living there forever. I smiled extra wide when I saw the keffiyeh my step-son put up on his side of the wall.

"It looks great, guys!" I said, almost teary, "I like it!"

" I do, too" said my 16-year-old girl.

"Think of it as your pre-college dorm training." I said.

"Yeah, that's exactly how it is. I know." She smiled.

We hugged a while.

Happy sigh.

Yes, my teen step-kids have invaded the space, but they've occupied it with love, respect, and color. I didn't expect to see them recover so quickly and so positively, but they did.

I'm less scared and more optimistic about the days ahead. I reckon it's easier to live with less space when there's more love.

And I love those two-- since the day I met them, eight years ago.

Welcome home, kids.


Dream Catcher said...

What a beautiful post! Weaved with intelligence, honesty and so much love! Roula you are one of a kind habibti.
btw, I remember very well how me and my siblings (4 of us as you know) used to all sleep in one room. Yes a 2 bedroom apartment in the city too. I have only great memories of those times. Your kids will be more than fine.

Hala Jabbour said...

Oh, Roula! How touching! How genuine! And to know that you will be affecting these two kids (as well as yours)forever with such love and understanding! You are terrific!

Ruby Justice said...

My humbling Halas,
Thank you for your kindest words.
Stay tuned...

Tracey said...

You handled this just right-- a deft mixture of independence, support, and love.

Great post!