‘What’s up with my kids? They climb on everything. And our furniture is so cheap, it’s always breaking.’

‘I regret now buying what we did when we moved here. It’s not holding up with our boys.’ Another woman added.

Before you think this is a discipline issue, this conversation came from our Brooklyn cohort this past Wednesday night. They are raising kids in small city spaces. 650-square-foot is the average size of a NYC family apartment. We had the same amount of space when we lived in Madrid with our family of five. I understand the struggle.

Two women in our group have shotgun-style apartments. This architectural design is especially advantageous for seeing what everyone in your family is doing at all times. Standing at one end of the apartment, you can see straight through to the other end and even into the neighbor’s apartment across the street. The bathroom door is the one exception, which of course means that conference or business calls are usually conducted from that room.

It’s so common for pregnant moms to convert their closets into baby rooms that we hardly bat an eye at the idea. However, most haven’t figured out how to convince well-meaning relatives that the best baby-shower gifts are presents of money.

So it’s no surprise kids climb on furniture or use the living room wall as a backdrop for basketball. It’s the only space available.

Laughing together over some of our crazier stories helped relieve the illusive idea that we’re the only ones wrestling with space issues and raising kids. We also picked up a few good ideas from each other.

With another boy on the way, Susan bought red plastic chairs for their dining area. Not only do these look sturdy enough to withstand multiple uses, they add an attractive flair.

Purchasing a coffee table on Craig’s List, Sarah could only find parking three blocks from her apartment. After walking the table home then climbing three flights of stairs, all with her two year old in tow, she finally got the table inside. Her two year old promptly stood on it.

During Spain’s rainy winters I hung clotheslines across our living room. Sometimes it took 2 days before the clothes would dry. I didn’t dare take them down even when we had visitors. In the middle of a meeting held in our home, I suddenly realized a drying bra was dangling dangerously close to the head of a male participant. The hooks barely missed entangling his hair each time he turned his head. Thankfully, I have no photo to share.

If you’re raising kids in a large city, most likely you are doing so with limited space. While it’s frustrating now, one of the advantages is that kids grow up comfortable with ambiguous spaces, tight spaces and diversity.

Yet, regardless of where kids are raised, ultimately we need to remember; it’s God who is writing their story, not us. Yes, we have a responsibility to raise our children but the scriptural focus is on raising our kids in the admonition of the Lord. Literally that means, “putting in mind” the ways of God.

We can show them the ways of God whether we do this in wide open spaces or the narrow confines of a tiny apartment.

Shari