My redheaded spitfire of a daughter will turn 4 in January, so I can see it coming: the nap is going to leave us. This is a terrible thing, especially because I am codependent with my children’s sleeping habits. When they sleep well, Daddy is happy; when they don’t, Daddy has a Bad Day.
With our son, now 6-1/2, we were the nap holdouts among his contemporaries, who all shed the nap by age 2. I persisted, forcing him to spend at least an hour of quiet time “on bed” (not “in bed”). And somebody told me that fresh air and exercise are a napless parent’s best friend. So even in February, as long as it’s above freezing or not raining hard, we go outside every day. We rode out the storm with our son foundering on the nap around age 2, and he napped until about age 4.
Our daughter now is nearing 4, and she’s starting to goof off more at naptime. I come in to find barrettes lined up on the floor, neatly sorted by color. Dolls and bears lined up on her bed, as if our daughter were holding court. Books strewn. Outfits tried on and discarded. I’m a big fan of a clearly defined “put-down” routine, where she usually gets three stories and three songs and then drifts off to sleep on her own. Last week, it wasn’t working at all.
Time for Naptime Hardball.
I kept to the three songs – gotta feel like I’m in control, after all. But I picked two church songs that I repeated and repeated as I stroked her hair. For the grand finale, I sang “I’ve Been Workin’ On The Railroad,” because it’s the longest kid song I know. That, too, I sang three times, getting slower and slower each time.
Finally I remembered something I used with her brother. I brought his CD player in and picked the sleepiest disc I could find – anything by Elizabeth Mitchell is good. I figured that if our daughter is anything like my Lovely Bride — who can’t shut her brain down for sleep without doing a crossword puzzle, finishing a soduku or playing solitaire on her Blackberry for 20 minutes or so – then this would tie up her 3-year-old imagination long enough to wind down for a nap.
Good news. Victory! The nap is back. Today, at least.