Last year we bought a little house on a large lot in a neighbourhood we loved. We gutted it, adding two floors and digging out the basement. The whole job took eight months. My husband, our five kids, our dog and me lived in the house the whole time.
It was one wild adventure. It made us a better family and I think it made me a better person. I learned a lot about parenting, about marriage, and about kids while living in the reno zone.
There were good reasons to stay in the house. For one thing, there were no houses to rent in the area and no apartment could house our brood. We wanted the kids to settle into the neighbourhood. We wanted them to stay at their school. Despite the mayhem around them, we wanted them to continue on with all their normal activities.
Oops. I used the word “normal”. Looking back on it from the comfortable confines of my renovated house, I think the biggest lessons I learned from this adventure had to do with the words normal and change.
While living in the reno zone, we chose to recognize and embrace change. The kids, who slept on single mattresses stuck together like Scrabble pieces, knew things were different. Why hide it? There was no TV, no computer, only books and board games surrounded by tools and materials. The kids, all powerfully driven by the pursuit of fun, adapted immediately. (It took my husband a little longer.)
I learned that some things shouldn’t change. We ate every meal together, sitting around the dinner table each night reviewing our days. By the way, an unplugged table saw makes for an excellent sideboard. Bedtime is bedtime, homework is homework, and the dog needs to be walked.
By keeping the basic structure of family life together, I realized that home is simply any place where we are all living together. It was rather liberating. This is probably the best reason why living in the reno zone felt so normal.