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The Secret Spot

Maddie and Cora each have their own bedrooms, and their own closets. Both closets are full, which sounds crazy since each closet is a double-door, wall-length closet with PLENTY of space for a small child’s clothes and perhaps a newlywed couple in some countries. But in our house we don’t get rid of stuff very quickly; we have tubs and tubs of clothing in Maddie’s closet ready to be handed down to Cora, and in Cora’s closet we’ve got tubs and tubs of clothing Cora is handing down to her young cousin.

This past year, Cora’s closet has been gradually emptying out as baby J starts growing. We’ve said a tearful good-bye to newborns, then three month olds, then six month olds – you get the picture. Each tub leaving is both a cause for rejoicing – more STUFF gone! – and a pause to remember my babies, and how they’re moving inevitably onward and upward.

But there’s been a side benefit to Cora’s gradually emptying closet, and that’s the emergence of a new “room” – Cora’s Secret Spot.

Over the summer I came upstairs to find Cora after she’d had a particularly big fight with her sister, and stared at her empty room. “Cora?” I called. “In here,” I heard a muffled voice answer.

I opened the closet and found my girl lying on the floor in a small amount of empty space, curled up like a baby. “I just needed to take a minute to myself.”

I smiled, gently shut the door, and walked away.

Over the next few weeks Cora regularly disappeared into her self-titled Secret Spot, and I worked to give Cora a more defined space. I rearranged some tubs, moved over a chest of drawers, and gave Cora a little room about three feet high and three feet wide by around 18 inches deep. I threw down some blankets, taped a push-button light to the “roof” of the spot, and watched my girl dig deep into her privacy.

Cora spent a fair amount of time in her Spot for a while, listening to music on her headphones or reading a book by flashlight. Sometimes both girls would sneak in there with walkie-talkies, leaving the other one with me, then laughingly call me when they got thirsty.

The secret spot isn’t in daily use now, but Cora will still head in there when she needs to calm down about something. We’ve spent years teaching the girls to take “breaks” – not a time out, which has a definite amount of time and feels like a punishment, but a break, which is over when they’re calm and ready to re-join the group. It’s not a consequence, but a tool, and I see the fruit of our labor in this as Cora says, “I need a break!” and storms into her Spot, only to come back downstairs calm and collected ten minutes later.

Just the other day Cora headed to her spot in anger at her sister. I came and knocked on the door to check on her: “Honey, you ok?”

“I’m FINE.” I heard through the door. “I’m just taking a break so I don’ PUNCH Maddie.”

That room? Is golden.


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