Sunday, September 8, 2013

Does Sharing a Room Help Kids Become Successful Resilient Adults?

 We are all within four feet of each other, okay?  We can hear you.  - Emanuel brother about growing up in a small house and sharing a bedroom. 'Emanuel Brothers' Chicago Tribune, April 5, 2013

Is is possible that sharing a bedroom gives kids a 'leg up' in becoming successful resilient adults?  Growing up in the 1960s in Uptown Chicago, the three ridiculously successful Emanuel brothers shared a room.  Ari Emanuel has been described as the "21st century Hollywood mogul" and is the co-CEO of William Morris an entertainment and media agency.  The character of Ari Gold on HBO's show Entourage was patterned after Ari Emanuael.  Rahm Emanuel, Ari's brother, served as White House Chief of Staff for Barack Obama and is now mayor of Chicago.  The oldest brother "Zeke" Emanuel is a doctor and holds a joint appointment at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Wharton school.

Here are boys.

Richard, my oldest son, Marc, my youngest and Rick my husband.

They shared a room from the first night Marc was brought home from the hospital until Richard went to college.  Marc's crib was in the same room as Richard's bed.  At that point Richard was four-years-old.    Richard graduated last year from University of Wisconsin, Madison and is now teaching Physics with Teach For America.  He is applying to medical school for the fall of 2014.  Marc is a sophomore at the University of Michigan.

I recently asked them about sharing a room.  Here is the interview.  (In the interest of full disclosure, neither of my boys were keen on doing this interview.  I definitely twisted their arms.)

Wisdom from Across the Room: Two Brothers Share a Room in a Small Home

Question:  What was the hardest part about sharing a room?

Richard:  I heard Marc crying to be fed when he was a baby.  But I learned to put a pillow over my ears and fall asleep that way.  No big deal.

Marc:   I can't think of one thing.  There was nothing hard about sharing the same room.

Question:  Were there any good things about sharing the same room?

Marc:  Yes.  I knew everything about 'sex and girls' before my friends.  (Big laugh.)

Richard:  I don't think of it as good or bad, it just was.  I will say this, Marc and I are very close.  We disagree on a lot of things, but I'm his biggest defender.  Don't get between me and my brother.

Marc: If there is one person in my life I look up to, one person whose approval I want, it is my brother's.  A big part of that is sharing a room with him and knowing him so well.  I respect my brother more than anyone else, except maybe my mother and father.  To use a term from 'The Godfather' a movie we have watched together over and over, Richard is my 'consigliere'.  I don't want to let him down.  (Richard gives Marc some kind of complicated 'guy' hand-shake and hug.)

Question: You did not have a computer or television in your room.  Was that a problem?

Richard and Marc answer together:  No problem at all.  We had a computer and television in the basement and used that for homework and video games.  And it worked out great because we could bring our friends down there.

Question:  You both lived in dorm rooms at college.  Did sharing a room help prepare you for college dorm living?  

Richard:  Oh yeah!  My college dorm was much bigger than my room at home.  It was great and I was used to sharing my stuff with someone, so it was no big deal.  I also lived in a fraternity which also was no big deal.  Once you share a room with your brother, you got the routine down.  Stuff doesn't bother you.

Marc:  Yeah, dorm life was nice.  I had more space, it worked out great.  I'm living in a fraternity now and like Richard said, it's no big deal.  I don't feel crowded and I don't need my own private bathroom.

Question:  A couple of questions about living in a smaller house.  Most of your friends lived in bigger houses and had their own rooms.  Did that bother you?  Did it make you less popular?

Richard:  What?  That is a dumb question.  No one cared about the size of our house.

Marc:  I'm not even going to answer that.  Stupid question.

Question:  Sometimes you threw parties at home while we (your parents) were out.  Even though you cleaned up all the evidence, we always found out.  Do you think this was because the home was smaller and the neighbors could hear you and always told us?  And of course the house was small so we always noticed if something was out of place.

Richard and Marc together, interrupting each other:  What are you talking about! Where are these questions coming from?  Yeah, you always caught us and yes the neighbors always told you if anything happened.  Having a small house definitely hurt our party reputation.

That was the last question I asked my boys.  If you have questions, I can try to get those answered for you, but no promises.

Talk to you soon.



  1. What insight....I love this post!!!!

  2. Thanks, Andrea. I do find it interesting that my children could care less about my fixation with bigger homes and the american philosophy that bigger is better.

  3. Our four children shared rooms too. (Two boys and two girls) But our home was only 1200 sq. ft. and we had no basement! When I ask them now, as adults, about living so closely together, they say, "But it was home."

  4. Missing your posts! Hope you are well.

  5. You have such a wonderful blog. I enjoy your thoughts and pictures. I have been wondering if you are ok, waiting for a new post. I am sure there are others wondering too. Hope you are well.

  6. are missed genevieve...and loved...blessings laney