"She's alone a lot in her room; we make her keep the door open."
One thought reaches another.
I moved into an old (1740?) farmhouse 15 years ago. It belonged to poor people. Everything is small, solid, functional, and unpolished rock, oak, and plaster. It was perfect for me ... there are no right angles to match when I build things; the interior plaster and stone can't show damage when I miss a nail.
I hauled out stucco to expose beams in several rooms, then cut away attic boards to give me a half loft in one bedroom. I put in two skylights - built from glass patio doors - so I can see the moon as well as pull in some winter sun. The skylights had to open so there is no screen between me and the sky.
I used to climb out one bedroom window, on the short side of the home's L, and sit on the roof of the family room, facing a southern afternoon sun. That roof disappeared and became the floor for a sun room, on the second floor, off of the bedroom. The window access became a door. There's a hatch in the middle of the sunroom ceiling so I can still climb and sit on the roof.
The sunroom floor (also the ceiling to the family room) is built in the style of a deck with 3/4th inch gaps between the 2x6 planks. Thus, I can light the family room below with sunlight tinted with green and earth tones, or with incandescents at night, each filtered downward from the sunroom, through the deck slots. The reverse it true. Evening light from the family room plays through the sunroom and lays bright lines on its ceiling. There's a very special feeling about the light, it direction and its color, from above and from below. There's also a special feeling being able to look up or down and sense the spaces in either direction.
There are more plans, of course. There's a dream of opening 3 x 6 feet in the ceiling of one corner of my office on the 1st floor and putting a ladder directly into the small bedroom above which will become a library and study. That same second floor room could have a congruent opening in its ceiling that eventually penetrates the roof, allowing sunlight to cascade down through two rooms into the office.
"She used to open her window so she could check the weather but I worried about her letting in rain and ruining things, so I fixed the window and she can't open it anymore."
I think of my home, his daughter, and a tape from the "Discovery Channel," one about orangutans. Juveniles play in trees high above the forest floor; adolescents build their own nest each evening wherein they sleep alone but can see other members of their family. We share the part of my mind that moves up and down in a houes. A part also shared by ADHD kids who "climb to excess," by every kid who wants a tree house (how many of them want a ground house?) and perhaps by every teenager who climbs out on the roof to watch the stars or to sneak a smoke or both.
I felt for his kid; maybe he ought to cut some holes in his ceiling but I don't suggest it, he wouldn't understand even though he really likes my family room.
1) Many families built onto their homes as the family grew. Each generation added their space. That changed when, with cheaper land and cheaper energy, we decided that the kids had to have their own places when they married. It may be that our adaptations for territory and dominance led each of us to leave our parents for structures wherein each child has a personal container, known as "the room." The function of the room may be reduce adult-child competition by moving the children away from mom & dad, an immediate gain for the parents with a significant long term cost of reduced parental monitoring (an important element in the development of conduct disorder) and perhaps earlier, more intense bonding between their child and his peers.
Certainly, adolescents - like the orangs - seek privacy. However, I question the impact of isolation that occurs with the phrase "my room" and the premature access to parental closeness, especially since clinical estimates are that 20% of 14 yo females (and 10% of the males) experience significant depression, depression that incubates with isolation. I also question the need to put an infant in a separate room before the age of 5. "Put him in his room and let him cry" ... a traditional pediatric saw. Other physicians, however, note that early loss and separation may establish a "kindling" reaction. Early networks of fibers are possibly reinforced, muttering in the neural background, networks waiting to activate at different moments to feed depression.
2) Separation anxiety has its ambiguity. Some children have bad dreams when sleeping alone, require nightlights, and attempt to stay in their parents' bed. Dreams and illusions of monsters reflect anxiety about being eaten or kidnapped, a useful sense for keeping us closer to mom and safer in older times. An alternate, selfish interpretation exists. If the child is in bed with mom & dad, they are less likely to be making a competitor for him. He will also be able to compete with each of them for attention from the opposite parent.
3) I visited Montreal in '67 for the Expo. One exhibit was "Habitat," a complex of cement apartments, prefabbed, and stacked on site such that no one had a direct view into someone else's patio. However, walks and courtyards were shared by the entire community. There was a sense of privacy but also of "being with." I've heard nothing more about it since. It could have been a bad idea or possibly a good idea squelched by existing contruction practices.
4) This posting has the potential, like the one on Adult Barbies, to make a contractor very wealthy. I am certainly not the only one who appreciates vertical openness.