Naps are a great thing. Maybe even the best of things. In a stressful and unpredictable day of parenting young children, nap time represents an eye in the storm – a brief time where you can relax and bolster your defenses for the post-nap portion of your day. On a recent family trip I’m proud to report that Noa and I achieved nap nirvana. We had taken the kids on a beach vacation and were able to coordinate some child care for them while we were away. In our younger days we might have gotten babaysitters for the evening and went out for a night of dinner, drinks and dancing. But we all know that those days are over and that we’ve come to accept the harsh reality that the kids are going to get up at the same time no matter how late you stayed out the previous night. Instead, we thought we could re-claim a good part of the day. We had a nice lunch with the family, then put both kids down for a nap, left them with a sitter and then embarked on the most audacious nap time activity ever conceived: an hour-long couples massage followed by another hour of swimming in the ocean and laying on the beach. Yeah that’s right, and you know what? It went off without a hitch. I almost can’t believe it, but after that we were even able to get back while the kids were just waking up from their naps. If they knew what we were up to while they were napping I’m sure they’d decide to never nap again for the rest of their lives.
Naps are the best but they can also pose some great challenges. Have you even been out of the house with nap-time fast approaching and your kid starts dozing? This is an activity I like to call juggling knives. You could try to keep the kid from falling asleep while you finish the trip home, but that’s risky – keep them awake too long and you could miss nap time altogether. Your other option is to let them fall asleep. But you want them asleep on your terms, and that’s not going to happen until you get home. And when you get home, are you a skilled enough intra-nap transplanter to move the kid from the car to the crib without waking them? That’s a maneuver that can shake even the most battle-hardened parents to their core and it rarely works once your child has hit a year old. I liken it to playing a game of operation on a speed boat. The stakes area high either way. Just know that you’re not alone out there.
Just when you’ve started to build some confidence in getting your kid down for nap time, things will inevitably start to change. For us, it was the arrival of our second child. We were stripped of the glory of nap time when he showed up (at least at first). After all, what good is having one kid nap when there’s another one who is still awake, and somehow knows that he now has no competition in creating work for his parents? The answer is not much. And that is why god invented the synchronized nap. Think of this as post-graduate program in sleep engineering. There is no question that a synchronized, multi-child nap is at least twice as difficult to pull off, but the payoff is multiplied exponentially. I’ve been in many different houses of worship in my life, but a house with more than one napping child will always be more miraculous to me. We haven’t quite hit our stride in the art of synchronized napping but I know that one day we WILL get there. And then, that will be the day our older child decides to drop her afternoon nap altogether. I can’t even think about that right now.
I knew I hit the jackpot the other day when my daughter told me, “I am ready to take a nap.” Most of the time my daughter will find any and every distraction to escape sleep. I also don’t have any shame in admitting that I love my kids more when they are napping. They can terrorize me all morning, acting like demons and raising hell – but as soon as they fall asleep they are back to being perfect little angels again and I miss them. Amazing.