Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Tuesday is Reader Mail Day

Last week, I had a couple of personal posts on how we plan to arrange our new house. Will our boys be closer and learn to share more with others if they share a bedroom? By not having a formal diningroom, which is a growing trend, will that result in less communal gatherings or in a more practical use of space? Here's what some of my readers had to say:

Teep still feels that a dining room can be a place for community even if it isn't traditionally organized.

Make it a library around the edges, but leave room for a table (with leaves, which are mostly not in the table) and chairs in the middle. Most of the time, you can use the table for the following useful activities:

-- reading and/or research (not the computer kind)
-- homework (primarily for the kids)
-- scrabble / monopoly / canasta / puzzles (Yes, my family still does this sort of thing together.)
-- extra space for holiday baking efforts
-- all manner of arts and crafts projects (psyanky, easter egg dying, salt-flour dough items that get hard and you can paint them), school projects (dioramas, scale models, etc.) where having room to work is important.

Kathe agrees.

Pish posh on the need for a dining room. We entertain, we cook, we just don't need everyone to sit formally around a big long table. If you put books and chairs in there, that is nirvana!!! plus people can easily sit and chat and the kids can play and the mommies (daddies I guess but usually in my house the mommies) can chat. or the mommy can read while the babies play -- N_I_R_V_A_N_A!!!

Dining rooms feel stuffy, formal, uncomfortable -- it's just a different way of entertaining. my dining room has been used once. the china cabinet is so well organized that i don't dare go in there to get anything out so we don't use our china. I just have to dust the furniture and once in a while i walk through to get somewhere else. But I long for a room lined with book shelves, some comfy chairs, cute rug on the floor, kid stuff. ahhhhhhhhh.

Kristine talks about dividing her house by function, rather than by ownership.

We've done several different things and have finally settled on something that works really well for us--our (3) kids have a "sleeping room" and a "playing room." The sleeping room has basically nothing in it but beds--dressers are downstairs near the washer and dryer (no schlepping baskets!). The playing room has all their toys (not so many--we're sort of minimalist Waldorf toy types)...

The formal dining room, which is too small for really great dinner parties anyway, is a reading room--wall to wall bookshelves and lots of pillows and cushions. No other furniture. When we invite people for dinner, we move our table from the kitchen into the living room, add the leaves and put it in front of the couch...

We like having the house divided mostly by function, rather than by "owner." (I guess we probably won't start calling the master bedroom the "sex room," though :) So that breaks the ownership rule and is "mom and dad's room.") And I actually like the ritual of moving the table for company. It shows that we are making room in our daily life for something special, not to mention that it gives me a chance to scrub all the nasty stuff that accumulates around the table legs--eek!!

Does sharing a room with others shape character? Isabel thinks yes.

I shared a bedroom w/an older brother for a few years; then I got my own room around kindergarten. So I don't have a lot of experience sharing a bedroom, although I did have to share a lot of other things w/my five brothers. I've often thought that forced sharing served me well when it was time to go to college, have apartment roommates, etc. I wonder if it also contributed to my belief that I don't own the world, nor does it owe me anything, nor am I the center of the world, etc. Basically, routine sharing as a child helped me be less selfish.

Another reader, R.T., disagreed. Her two brothers were very different and never learned to get along.

They argued, wrestled and fought daily--and for the most part, the battles revolved around space usage. Felix would pick up Oscar's various grosser items (banana peels, half-eaten cupcakes, the snail collection multiplying in the closet) and toss them out. Oscar would of course, protest the loss of these treasures and restore them toute-suite. Oscar, who required a certain amount of quiet to maintain his perpetually low heart rate and reclining posture, would grow angry with the bouncing that was frequently heard in the upper bunk above him at nighttime as Felix enacted out the day's plays on the baseball field. To this Oscar would bang his largest book and/or reading lamp with consequence being they both would end up on the floor going at it life and limb until either my Mother or Father would appear to pull them apart.

I also received a couple of e-mails about Longaberger basket parties in the suburbs. I was a bit puzzled about the charms of a basket party, but I've been informed that they do involve a lot of booze and are an opportunity to dump the kids with their dads. I really should write an essay about this. Isabel fills me in more.

Our neighbor two doors down has a niece who's a Longaberger lady; this neighbor hosts the occasional basket party. Many neighbors go and buy at least a small item. We really do it to have a good time, eat junk food, take a swim in her pool, and (for moms) leave the kids behind and talk to other adults for a few hours. I once bought the cheapest basket available - a $45 business card holder. And yes, there are people who collect these baskets: our neighbor's granddaughter gave guests a tour through the house once, pointing out all the Longaberger baskets her grandmother owned, for a grand total of 64 (and that was a few years ago).

UPDATE: Palabreria and Theory of the Daily adds their two cents.

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