Nap time has become the barometer of our day. It literally dictates how our afternoon and evening will go. If little guy gets up early enough for a reasonably timed nap, the evening will be smooth. If he wakes too late for a nap, there will be tantrums and tears and clumsiness and all out misery.
I have a love hate relationship with these naps. I crave some time to breathe during the day; time to just be with my son, alone in my own head, without worrying about anything. Most days I get to nap too. We sleep together, cuddled up on his floor bed ; those nap time jolts of Oxytocin are as real as a drug.
When he doesn’t nap, and I don’t get my nap time fix, I feel like we are at odds until bed time. He battles against his own exhaustion by fighting us with every ounce of independence in his toddler body. There is no quiet time; we simply run down the clock until he fights us to sleep. On no nap days, I actually get to be alone with my husband before 11:30 pm, before we are wrung out and creased by each minute we have spent on other people. We have time to exist next to each other absent of any other stimuli.
I don’t know what I prefer. Honestly, it’s not a choice I can make because we are riding out nap purgatory as our son gets older and less dependent, or willing to conform to, his mid-day breaks.
Today, he had to nap. We are going to a wedding and won’t be home till late and since he doesn’t sleep well for anyone else, the nap will ensure that his grandparents survive the evening. We woke him up early to guarantee the nap, and it worked. He’s been sleeping for two hours while I run around getting ready. So today, I didn’t nap. And it was fine until I came in his room to check on him. He’s so big sleeping there. I didn’t want to wake him up by lying down next to him, but I wanted to be with him- so I’m sitting on the floor watching him while I write.
This is my reminder that he’s getting bigger; that he isn’t going to need me the same ways in six months. That the days of feeling like a tugboat are passing, quickly. I taught junior high and high school for eight years. I know that teenagers shrink away when parents absentmindedly sin against their child by touching them in public. I know this little boy who likes to sit in “the mama chair” ( my lap) is going to turn into a seven year old who runs every where and needs a reminder to hug me. I know he’s going to turn into a teenage man-child who gets affection through high-fives on the field, and stolen kisses from girls in the dark. I know my little one is going to turn into a man, and men, it seems, aren’t allowed to seek reassurance from their mother- even if it is the one thing they can always depend on. I know he’s growing up, and simultaneously- growing away. That’s the goal of parenting: to raise them so they can thrive on their own. I know.
My parents divorced when I was nine. They arranged for joint custody of my brother and I ; every two weeks, my brother and I would pack up all our clothes, our most precious toys, sometimes even our pets, and we would go live with one of our parents. The cycle would repeat two weeks later. My parents had our best interests at heart, but it was a bad system. I was always homesick for an anchor that I didn’t have. Divorce does that. I can remember crying at night because I couldn’t sleep; I missed my other parent or I just didn’t feel settled. I can remember feeling lost and so so sad. I stole a scarf from my mom and a tee shirt from my dad; most nights I slept with one of those stolen items. I just needed my parents’ presence- and I was nine. I fully understand my son needing us at two. And we’ll keep going.
And it’s knowing this, and seeing all the ways he’s already moved past my help, that allows me – encourages me – to hold him now. It’s why I get up night after night to cuddle and whisper him back to sleep when he wakes up crying. It’s why I look when he says, “Mama”. It’s why I listen to when my heart says,” go ” instead of listening to the voices that tell me “stay- he’ll never learn if you’re always there” . It’s why you go too.
He will learn. He has already learned. He is learning.
Naptime is my opportunity to see him as he is. A little boy getting bigger.