By TMoM Team Member Katie Moosbrugger
Nap time in our house was never a pretty scene. My son Henry was a terrible napper and naps were something he always desperately needed. As a toddler he fought them off miserably. But when the nap won and eventually overtook him, he did not want to let it go. Waking him up was a slow, delicate process that requires lots of cuddling and lots of prodding.
And when the nap didn’t win, we’d often get a visit from a little crazy man who was utterly exhausted by dinner time, who demanded snacks constantly (probably to just stay awake), and who ran around the house getting into all kinds of trouble with us and his big sister.
Moving from toddler to preschool age, Henry still needed his naps but always resisted the urge. I remember this being one of the more challenging stages as a parent, and also a sad period for our whole family. It was sad for Henry because his poor little body desperately needed a nap to refuel, but rarely got one. It was sad for me because I no longer had extra quiet time in the house. It was sad big sister, Emily, who was no longer getting any uninterrupted “mommy” time while Henry napped. And it was sad for all of us who craved a few hours of downtime to relax and recharge on weekends .
Unfortunately from day one, we never had a great nap time routine with Henry. I blamed it on the fact that he was the second child and none of us wanted to take breaks out of our day for a nap schedule. That probably sounds selfish, but we stuck to a rigid nap schedule with my daughter…and when she grew out of that stage, it was so liberating that neither my husband nor I wanted to go back to that lifestyle with Baby Number Two. We were mindful of getting Henry naps when he needed them, but we were never the family who stopped what we were doing at exactly 12:30 in order to be home at 1 pm for the afternoon nap.
I also blamed Henry’s poor nap schedule on the fact that I couldn’t get him to stay put. In hindsight, we was probably over-exhausted which was why he couldn’t unwind. But he always seemed intent on going full-steam-ahead from the moment he opened his eyes in the morning to the moment his head hit the pillow at night.
So as life happened in our house, I usually just let nature take its course and welcomed naps whenever – and wherever – they occurred. And some of the places and times have been hilarious (thus the documented pictures!).
Getting through the close-to-dropping-the-nap stage was not easy, but we did make two changes that helped ease the pain. One was a regular “quiet time” in our house. This took place right after he got home from preschool and after a snack. This was not necessarily “nap time” but I had Henry lay in his bed and look at books or color for about an hour. The other change was earlier bedtimes – for both kids. I had always heard sleeps begets sleep, and I believe it to be true. Even in later years, the earlier my kids went to bed, the longer they slept in the morning (and the fewer times they awoke in the night).
What about you? Have you gone through this stage with better luck? What kind of advice can you offer to other moms who are battling it right now? Or are you a mom in this stage right now? What’s working – or not working – for you?
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My four year old has always been a great sleeper-at night. We fought through mandatory daily naps until he’d last birthday, when I finally gave up for two reasons. First, the FOMO for what my older child was doing was impossible to overcome, and second, because afternoon naps were causing bedtime to be more and more of a fight. My new approach is mandatory quiet time. When the nap is needed, it happens, and we’re religious about bedtime.