Anthony’s boys are finally in Michigan. Finally finally finally. I was so nervous about seeing them I was almost sick–would they like the house? Sleep through the train horn? Like their bunk beds?
Yes on two out of three of those. They like the house. They can sleep through the train.
We haven’t finished building their bunk beds. Yup, building. In my brilliant wife-mind I thought, since we have such limited space, we should build a triple bunk bed. Anth was skeptical, but I assured him, if he can build stretcher bars for canvasses, he could build this bed with me. After all, I’ve built a bookshelf before. And my grandpa was a carpenter. And this is the cheapest way…
So I printed off a bunch of DIY bunk bed patterns online. I altered them to fit our narrow kid’s IKEA mattresses, and made a mock-up out of paper.
The text to Anthony read: If it stands in paper, it’ll stand in real life… right?
He promptly took my plans to the wood shop guy on campus, the one who builds things for real. And he promptly told us that we would need crossbars and maybe a bolt to the wall. Unsightly crossbars and a bolt didn’t fit into my plans. I wanted to put bookshelves between the spaces, I wanted the beds to be interchangeable, mobile, and I wanted all manner of impossible storage fun… We decided to go forward with our original plans and then see what we were dealing with.
Our wood shop friend is right. After Anthony made all the right cuts in our 2x4s and we drilled the holes and placed lag bolts and wood screws–we’re both a little nervous about that top bunk. Also we discovered the bedroom floor is crazy crooked. Like the left corner of the room is a sinkhole. Not optimal when you’re trying to level three beds.
So when the boys arrived with my mom, we had the middle bunk set up like a fort and all three mattresses on the floor. To make it fun, we put all their stuffed animals out and I made a sign that said Welcome Home! and WHO FORTED?
It was a hit. They are at those perfect ages (4,7,9) where the process is still part of the fun. Our failure to complete the project so far doesn’t register as failure with them. The youngest (Tink) thinks his dad is made of magic and power. The oldest (C.) is using the middle bunk right now as a play table. Plus they get to see their dad moving about this world, constructing things and changing space.
It’s strange how easily they transition into an entirely new state. A new house. Different rules. Sometimes I take it for granted. Sometimes it seems like more of a difficult transition for me–going from master of my day to Master of Squabbles, Master of Do-Your-Homework and Eat-Your-Vegetables, Master of Where-Did-All-This-Water-Come-From?
But we get to make the rules. Anth and I don’t know what it’s like to be split between two houses. Both sets of parents are still together, we’ve never had to divide our holidays with them, never had to leave our friends in one neighborhood to stay in another. Never had different toys for different houses, different clothes, different beds.
I want them to have a sense of stability. A sense of control. They help us make a meal plan and activity chart. We post our house rules and behavior expectations, things that we have talked about and agreed upon as a family. The expectations are there, but also the respect.
But still, this Christmas is going to be different than any other. Normally, they are with their mom on Christmas Day. For the past two years we’ve celebrated early with them, a tradition we invented to try to quell a holiday tug-of-war. If you built a tree at Dad’s house (out of fabric, chickenwire, paper mache, or boxes…) your presents would be delivered early by Christmas Bird, who steals the presents from Santa. The legend has grown teeth and it’s gone fantastically well.
This year, though, they are with us for the big day. Santa and Baby Jesus and a real Christmas tree. I’m starting to feel the weight of it. The big ole’ sleigh-bell weight. No family dinners, no trip to Grandma’s house, no one to make the holiday for them… it’s on us.
And I think when the time comes, it won’t matter how unsightly the crossbars or wall supports will be. The way that we stand will be the most important thing. Strong for them.