Freedom to Pick Formica

My mother’s taste is very traditional. She loves Royal Doulton ladies, Lladró figurines, Fenton glass – anything pastel, floral and feminine. Growing up, I didn’t think much of her décor or taste, but as I got a little older I found myself drawn to a more contemporary style. So, when I turned 13 and my mother was replacing my bedroom furniture, I had my heart set on a shiny black Formica bedroom set. This was definitely not my mother’s choice, and she dissuaded me from picking it out. She tried to steer me toward some natural woods and pointed out that black Formica is a magnet for dust. I shrugged. “You’ll have to dust it every day,” she warned. I smiled, unswayed. So she relented, and for 10 solid years I had a pretty kick-ass ’80s bedroom with my black Formica furniture, PG-rated Patrick Nagel print and a slew of harlequin masks on the wall.

It can be easy to dismiss a kid’s room. It’s just a place, after all – bed, dresser, closet, stuff … lots of stuff. But it’s really so much more. It’s a child’s oasis, and the first place they can claim as their own to express their unique likes and dislikes. It’s where they can reflect their budding personalities or try one on for size.

In this month’s cover story, “Make ‘Room’ for the Kids,” associate editor Megan Krueger details why a child’s room is important and why my mom was right to let me make it my own (even though she thought it was god-awful). She also spotlights some of the top trends in kids’ rooms.

As a parent, it’s not always easy to let go, to not control – whether that’s the paint color on your child’s bedroom walls or their comings and goings. In this issue, we also tackle the topic of how much is too much when it comes to kids and freedom. It’s been in the news with families who subscribe to the “free range” notion of parenting getting bashed or even indicted for their loose reins on their kids. But no matter how you feel about these specific examples, there is no doubt that modern parents have gotten even more fearful of letting kids try things on their own, go places without adult supervision, explore and, yes, sometimes encounter some limited dangers and learn to respond to those situations. In this piece, we try to find some middle ground for parents struggling with their instincts to protect their kids and the very real need to let them spread their wings.

My mom wasn’t always great at that part of the parenting equation. She didn’t mind me failing when it came to picking Formica furniture, but crossing the freeway on my own was another matter. I get it. Dust was a much more manageable foe than crazy drivers.

This Patrick Nagel poster in the image above graced my teen bedroom (clearly she’s no Royal Doulton lady).

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