Everything started because of guilt.
Which, I supposed, is not a great place to start. But you gotta start somewhere, and it got the ball rolling. So.
Husband and I only have Stepson twice a month. I’ve mentioned here that he sleeps in our ‘back room’, which is intended to be a cross between a den and a sun room. But we put a sleeper sofa back there, and we were halfing it — half was Stepson’s room, and half was Husband’s bike tinkering area.
It worked out well because we usually spent our weekends with Stepson at other places. We had clothes and toys for Stepson back there, but we were always out and about and he never really spent any time there.
Then, we started changing our priorities. Husband really wanted to focus on spending weekends in Chicago. It was fine, except now Stepson was now doing a lot more living in the back room. Or trying to, anyway. There was a lot of Husband’s bike stuff back there. Like air pumps and tire spokes and bike tools. It was pretty cramped. He was usually picking a few toys and bringing them into a different part of the apartment to play, which really annoyed me, because I was stepping on a scattered Lego days later.
Last year I cleaned up the area, but it did not stay clean long. Husband was not being tidy at all back there, and Stepson started following suit. I wasn’t really enforcing anything because things were just sort of there, not organized or collected in a bin. I felt bad, but I also felt overwhelmed by the idea of cleaning it up. I told myself it didn’t matter because Stepson was only back there once or twice a month. It was okay.
In May, we were dropping him off and I went up with Stepson to his room. It was a disaster pit. He had a bed and a desk, that was it. Everything was covered in papers, clothes, and toys. I couldn’t even see the carpet. There were pillows from the living room couch in the mess, as well as storage tubs of Christmas decorations. I found a pair of soiled underwear. I cleaned off his desk and convinced Stepson to clean up a few games and some Legos from the floor before I had to go.
I was horrified that she let him live in a room like that, a thought which was immediately followed by ‘He plays in a room with bike equipment and dirty clothes at your house.’
I wanted to change things around.
And then summer came and it was hot and he mostly slept in the air mattress in our bedroom and we were everywhere and I let it go. Again.
But now things are really starting to change for him. Husband’s ex is having a baby in December, and Stepson will have to share his room. He’ll have to get used to his mom shifting priorities for a baby again. There will be four kids in the house now. I think about this a lot. I think about what our weekends and apartment might mean for him once this happens. Maybe what they mean to him now. A place where the focus is just on him? A room of his own? A spot to play and not worry about someone destroying what he creates or eating his toys?
I don’t know how he feels, but I felt guilt. I felt guilty that our apartment just might mean all these things to him, and what were we giving him? Half the time now Husband was tossing him in the bed, and he was playing there too, because the room was so cluttered there was no space for him in the room to sit and play.
I started thinking. I started imagining. I started drawing up a plan. Thursday night, Husband came home to find me in the back room, crying out in disgust and hauling through all the shit. He asked, I explained, and he got to work.
He’s good like that.
We sorted clothes and toys. We made executive decisions and tried to find and save every last Lego. We turned his bed and folded his clothes.
This morning, Husband went through his side of the room. We fixed our closet space and put his clothes back there. He went through his bike equipment and tossed some, found homes for others. I went through a purge of some other things and we made a big Goodwill donation.
I’m excited for what we created, the room we made. From what we got and what we will get, we’ll only be spending about $75 to make it happen. I wish I could show everything RIGHT NOW, but we haven’t bought everything yet. Here’s a sneak peek:
Am I embarrassed that it took us so long (2 and a half years!) to do this? Yes. Am I glad we’re turning things around and doing it now? YES!