The importance of napping to toddlers is well-documented. It gives their growing bodies a rest and chance to recharge. And that’s pretty much why naps are important to parents, too. Not naps for parents. Naps for their toddlers. When the kids sleep, we get a chance to rest and recharge, too. I learned this the hard way today when my toddler, Ellie, decided not to nap.
You know the saying you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone? I didn’t realize just how much I depend on her naps. It’s my two hours of the day to check e-mail, write, conduct interviews, clean the house and stay seated in a comfortable chair for more than 30 seconds at a stretch. And today my 120 minutes of no-toddler time were spent listening to said toddler talk, cry, talk, cry, talk in the monitor. No amount of soothing, rocking, tickling or pathetic begging (from me; hers eventually made me crack) made a dent.
I’ll probably never know what caused her sleeplessness today. She should have been good and tired out after running around an outdoor playground all morning at a preschool meet-and-greet ahead of the start of the school year.
I’ve read that babies sometimes go through sleep regressions around this age, and for a month now, Ellie’s pattern has been off. There was some frustrating night waking, but it stopped after two weeks. Though now we have issues that make Adam Mansbach’s Go the F**k to Sleep my new parenting guidebook. First Ellie wants water. When I say the water is sleeping, she wants milk. Then she wants arm tickles. Then a few on her legs. Next she needs help organizing her toys so that her hands touch them all. Lastly, we go through everyone and everything that is asleep before it’s finally Ellie’s turn. Sometimes we go through this process more than once.
The naptime fiasco is probably – OK, mostly – my fault. As preschool approaches and Ellie’s vocabulary expands and I think about potty training, I can’t help but want to cling a little tighter to what’s left of her baby-ness. She snuggles on me in the glider while I tickle her arms and legs, and I find myself thinking about the days when she was as long as my forearm and we’d snooze together at our leisure. I always say, “Do this while I can.”
Sure, I was pissed off at first. Doesn’t she know I have stuff to do? Stuff that brings in some of the money that pays for her precious bubbles and chocolate milk? But then that image of her as a teenager rolling her eyes at me the way I rolled mine at my mom jumps into view, overshadowing my thoughts of looming deadlines, piles of dirty underwear and dust bunnies so big I could hand them a Swiffer and let them clean as they roll around. And I focus on what’s most important: Ellie.