I stood in M's room, putting away a stack of laundry. As I glanced around, I decided that M's room needed a make over. The dresser which held M's clothes was leftover from Mr. A and I's newlywed years. It is a cheap piece from Ikea and it was not aging well. The drawers were constantly stuck and one wobbly leg threatened to break away from the piece entirely.M had outgrown the chair he'd received as a toddler. The chair sits low to the ground, making it difficult for M and his long legs to stand up out of. His quilt, also from the toddler years, has been through dozens of wash cycles and was beginning to fade and fray at the edges.
Yes, M's room needed help.
I purchased a new quilt. It is cotton with stripes of rich navy, brick red, ecru and brown. It is handsome and is well suited for a boy who is turning eight. I stripped and refinished a dresser that once belonged to M's great-grandmother in a dark satin navy finish. I happened upon a wonderful vintage chair at a garage sale constructed of solid wood with sturdy arm rests that will be easy for M to get in and out of.
While M was away at summer school one day, I got to work on the room. I rolled on a coat of soothing taupe paint and moved in the new dresser. I switched the bedding and organized the bookcase and toys. M has recently developed a fear of the dark, so I placed a funky lava lamp on the dresser to serve as a fun night light. Since M's vision is so poor, I was mindful to keep everything in the same spot so that he would be able to navigate the room easily. I managed to finish putting the room together before M was due to arrive home.
I brought him into his room. He smiled and told me he liked it. He noticed the new dresser and immediately went to lay down on his new bedding. He was happy.
That night, I settled M into his bed and turned out the lamp and switched on the lava lamp. M freaked out.
"No light!" he screamed. "Turn off!"
I turned off the light.
He screamed again, "Too dark! Light on!"
I switched the light on again.
M continued to cry.
"Move that out!" he cried, pointing to the newly painted navy dresser. "I want mine!"
He tossed the pillow with the new sham to match the quilt on the floor. "No pillow!"
This was unusual for M. M has always been a great sleeper. Unless he is sick, I rarely hear from him once I have turned out his light.
This wasn't a tantrum or the antics of a child trying to avoid bedtime. Tears continued to stream down M;s face and it was apparent the sudden changes I had created in his environment had been too overwhelming for him. I'd sprung too much change on him and had not respected his space.
I'd looked at the room and saw a tastefully decorated space for a little boy. I saw modern color combinations and vintage pieces organized in harmony together.
M saw a dresser that was not his. He noticed a familiar chair was missing. There was a different wall color and a new light that glowed an eerie orange. The quilt that I had tossed aside for being faded and shabby was interpreted by M as comforting in the well worn softness of the cotton and familiar in the scent of laundry detergent that clung to the fabric. The change stripped comfort and familiarity from M and brought uncertainty and anxiety.
Mother doesn't always know best. There is still more I need to learn about my son.