When B was three and a half, he had not been to see us for almost an entire year. In that year we had gone from a strong career oriented power couple in a high-rise apartment in downtown Dallas to a slow nuclear family in a house in South Houston and had welcomed his newborn sister into this world. Regardless to say, a combination of the amount of time and the dramatic change made for an incredibly traumatic couple of days for our poor little man.
We made sure he had a space of his own. The house we rented was originally built by a NASA engineer and his family during NASA’s truly booming days. The room we had chosen for B was the engineer’s old office and the inside of the door was lined with official stickers from each and every NASA mission the engineer had been apart of (yes, including Apollo 11&13). We decided to build from there and create the perfect room for another little future astronaut. We created a large mural on the wall, hung a rotating mobile of the solar system, and lined the back of an old bookshelf that I had purchased at the tragic closing of one of Josh and mine’s favorite book stores growing up with star printed fabric. The entire community pulled together when we first moved in to help us, considering we were under the impression that we would be able to hold him, kiss him, and play with him in this beautiful room by the end of that month. But one month passed…and then two…and then it just became a fanciful idea that we stopped holding out hope for.
Finally six months after the rooms completion, that door we emotionally refused to open was opened to reveal his perfect magical space. We expected him to become apprehensive about his sister, but he welcomed her with open arms (literally) at the airport. It was when he sat down on his bed that his insecurities overtook him. He just curled into a ball and burst into tears, Josh held him and just let him cry for however long he needed, the reality of his torn home had finally hit.
The next day, B came in and gave us both a hug around our neck and went on to say, “thank you! I’ve always wanted my own bed!” After that his room became his safe place, a place where he had control, a place just for B and whoever he chose to let in. Everything became about his “space room”. When he was back with his mom, he would Skype us and each time request that we show him around his special room.
When news came that we would be moving states this past summer I sat down with the now 5 year old Ben and explained that after he went back home that we would be moving. I tried to explain that the space room would have to stay, but that he could help me come up with a new design for his new room all on his own. We have decided to wait until summer to introduce him to this new home so that he has time to adjust, in the meantime we just travel with him. For Thanksgiving we took him to my grandmother’s house (his second favorite safe space) in Houston. In the cab from the airport he started talking about his space room, and how his sister was only allowed in if he gave her special permission. My heart sank, I truly thought he had understood from our talk just three months before. I turned back, “Ben we don’t have the Houston house anymore, there was a family who really really really wanted it, so we moved to Alabama where we have an even bigger cooler home and an empty room waiting for you to come and decorate.” Again the reality hit, but there were no tears. In March we plan to take him to Disneyworld for Spring Break, though we had originally been promised a Disney Cruise, but he understood the switch upon our realizing just how pregnant I would be at that point.
This summer he will come to our Alabama home, to a newborn baby sister, to another sister who is now actively running and talking, and a blank canvas for him and I to turn again into his perfect space. I just hope we have done everything we could to assure a stable transition.