When we first moved here nearly ten years ago, leaving our little London flat, we marvelled at what we saw as acres of space. We left one bedroom completely empty for months as we simply had nothing to put in it. Three children and vast quantities of plastic crap later, and every inch of space is now utilised to the max.
I desperately wanted three kids so, when in the midst of planning for our Baby T, I naively brushed off all concerns about the size of our house. It would be fine! Nothing to worry about. Other people manage with multiple kids in small houses. The older two can share and everything will be hunky-dory. Besides, the housing market can’t keep on growing forever so, when it crashes, we can nip in and buy a bigger place. Easy!
Hmmm. Not so much, it seems.
Don’t get me wrong, we are very lucky in what we have and I count my blessings. We live in a gorgeous village in West Sussex, in catchment for a fantastic little school and in walking distance from a commuter belt station. All pretty idyllic. Our location is perfect but, as always, that comes with a hell of a price tag. And prices are still going up.
Our school takes just 30 children a year and the catchment area is the size of a large handkerchief. School places are hard to come by and if we moved out of catchment we’d have no chance of getting the little two into the same school as H. As I’m not prepared to have kids in different schools, with all the stress that would bring, we can’t move for at least three years, unless we find another place in catchment.
Besides, whilst not strapped for cash, we are simply priced out of the market locally if we want to upgrade. Our only option is to stay put, unless a perfect and reasonably priced little three bedroom house with lots of extension potential crops up in catchment. I’m not holding my breath.
And staying put certainly isn’t a major hardship. I love our little abode and we have done as much as we can to improve it over the last decade. New kitchen, new bathroom, garage conversation to make a playroom. Our next plan it to rip out the much peed on carpets in the sitting room and put in wooden floors. But after that, we are at the end of the line in terms of what we can do to improve our lot. We can’t build out into our tiny garden or there’d be nothing left and we can’t build up.
As much as I’d love to be able to have one bedroom per child, H and M absolutely adore sharing. At six and four, they think it is fantastic to have a buddy at night. They can be little pickles and stay awake chatting longer than I’d like, but they keep each other happy and M especially loves knowing her big brother is there so she isn’t alone. If I told them tomorrow that they’d have to split up and have their own rooms, they’d be devastated. When, in years to come, they start needing their own space, we can rejig things a bit, even turning the garage conversation into a forth bedroom. All sounds perfectly straightforward and do-able on paper, right?
But recently I’ve been getting a creeping feeling of panic about it all. I know this sounds obvious, but I hadn’t really taken into account the fact that the kids will grow. Very big. I break out in a cold sweat at the idea of trying to accommodate two adults and three gangling teenagers here. I had been happily kidding myself that it would get easier as they got older, as we would wave goodbye to the bulky plastic crap they have as little ones. I had failed to calculate the fact that they themselves will one day, in the not too distant future, be frickin’ enormous.
The kitchen is one of my biggest concerns. It is a tad wider than a corridor and already very crowded at busy times. Plus, bigger people eat more food. We struggle to fit everything in as it is. The kitchen cabinets are like a tightly packed jigsaw puzzle. There just isn’t room for anything else, unless I start throwing dinner plates out, and we kinda need those.
The food cupboard is crammed to capacity with enough food for just one week, feeding two adults and three small kids. How we will cope with teenagers eating us out of house and home, I cannot imagine. We have a slimline dishwasher and a washer-dryer (no room for a tumble). Luxury for the kid-free couple we once were. Just about manageable now. But in ten years time? Just negotiating the kitchen with teenage boys raiding the fridge could become pretty problematic.
I’m a bit annoyed with myself for not thinking about the fact that my kids will one day be ravenous, leggy giants in a too-small house. I mean, it is pretty bloody obvious to anyone not blinded by the dreaded baby-need that this overcrowding is inevitable.
But even if I had played all this through in detail, I still wouldn’t change the fact that we have our Baby T. He will one day be a six foot monster, eating me out of house and home and growing into our once empty space like a weed, along with his enormous brother and sister. But we will just have to manage. I have the three kids I so desperately wanted and being crowded out of my own house may just be the price I have to pay.
Who knows, maybe in a few years, before the giants descend upon us, the housing market will crash or we’ll win the lottery. In the meantime, I guess I’m just going to have to get used to going to the shop more often, running the dishwasher every few hours and having even more clothes draped over banisters and doorways to dry. Oh, and tripping over the ever growing limbs of my not so small people.