About a month ago Elisabeth started rejecting afternoon nap. Since then the precious rest has become arbitrary, like a complimentary dessert at the end of your meal when you hadn’t expected it but had been secretly wishing for a hit of sugar.
For me, the parent in charge of naps most days, the wishing for nap hadn’t been secret at all. I’d desperately prayed about it, wrote to list serves about it, listened attentively to wise “older” parents and discussed (ranted) with friends and sisters. I don’t think any parent would disagree that the afternoon nap is Sacred. No bonbons and soap operas but time that the stay-at-home parent desperately needs. Like most other parents home during the day, I often work during nap, prep dinner or do minimal cleaning. I. need. that. time.
When nap is missing, it feels like my blood pressure is actually rising. I wonder how on earth I can fill the unexpected hours and keep my patience with an overtired 2 year old. Because, make no mistake, Elisabeth is exhausted most days she doesn’t take a nap. She fights sleep sometimes as I used to (still do). There is always one more book to read, another puzzle to figure out. I look at her tight fist rub one sleepy eye and sigh. She is me. To a Tee.
Some moms said to me, “go with the flow,” and “if nap doesn’t work one day, try it again another day.” I tried these things. The day Elisabeth said to me, “mama do something else,” before the scheduled nap, I almost started to cry. Mainly because that sentence felt like such a clear wish to be alone but also because she seemed so grown up. But I went away and found something else to do. I soon saw that I can’t count on that however. Heck, sometimes I can’t even get Elisabeth upstairs on her own, let alone in her room quietly working on books. What then? Other moms said that their very verbal kids dropped their nap when they were her age and asked me if she was also very verbal. She is, I said. They looked at me with a knowing, sympathetic glance. I chalked all of this up to “more information can be helpful” category of parenting in my mind and kept praying.
I’ve wrote before that I really try and take Elisabeth seriously. I don’t use “no” discriminately and work hard to honor her choices as much as I can, within reason. Now that she is so vocal, it feels even more important to do so. After all, she’s working hard to ask a question or make a clear statement, so it seems like recognizing and responding to that is the least I can do. That’s what I’ve tried to do for nap too. I’ve discovered, however, that approach doesn’t work when Elisabeth is tired. She either doesn’t make good decisions or doesn’t make a decision at all which negates the whole respect thing I’ve been working on. It’s taken a good month but I’ve just realized this. And this realization means I need a new approach to the nap issue.
Yesterday I decided after talking with my friend Jennifer on Monday, that Elisabeth and I would come right home from school or wherever, and head upstairs around the usual time. No more play downstairs; we both agreed that the kids just became more wound up and perhaps that was part of the no-nap issue. When Elisabeth and I came home yesterday, we went right upstairs. Immediately, she says, “no nap, not tired.” I explained that she didn’t need to take a nap but it was quiet time and she needed to be in her room. This seemed to go over okay. Soon she wanted to go downstairs and I repeated the quiet time sentence, adding that (cousin) Gigi did quiet time in her house. Invoking (cousins) Gigi or Ivy Jane usually does work but no go this time. Downstairs I could hear the older dog barking his head off outside, wanting to be let in. I told Elisabeth that I needed to him in and I would be back. She started to cry. I closed the door to her room and left.
By the time that I opened up the backdoor to let the dog in, I could hear Elisabeth singing. The crying had stopped and she was singing Itsy Bitsy Spider. I debate going back upstairs since I did say that I would go back. I decided against it. Five minutes later, the song stops and it’s quiet. No video monitor so I don’t know what’s going on. The silence continued. I could only assume she fell asleep. A nap had been granted.
That was yesterday. Today, I tried something similar. No raucous barking as a means to flee her room but I simply said that it was quiet time and she didn’t have to sleep. I offered Elisabeth’s bear to her. She threw it. I asked her if she wanted to be nakey (a usual sure way to distract and soothe her) and she told me “downstairs two minutes”. Finally, I showed Elisabeth where her water bottle was and left. There was crying. But it was more perfunctory than heartfelt. I lingered in my bedroom for a bit then went downstairs and grabbed my laptop.
And here I sit. Windows open, silence on the monitor except for the single fan in Elisabeth’s room. I write. The crying didn’t last for more than a minute and there was no singing today. It’s been almost an hour and I pause periodically to listen hard. Nothing yet. I keep writing.