Nap-time (noun): the peaceful(ish) 1-2 hours when children are asleep and parents can get.shit.done. See also, the 1-3 hour parents eventually get sick of working their lives around for the sake of a happy, healthy child. (Note: This perspective typically kicks in quicker with the second or third kid.)
No matter your view on nap-time, kids ages 0-3 physically need their naps. While nap-time is a nice excuse for us to binge watch Netflix or fold loads of laundry, while we catch up with our bestie, it’s what helps their brains, bodies, and bones grow and develop. It’s kind of a big deal in early childhood development; it’s why most preschools don’t give up nap-time.
We were lucky in that nap-time was never a big battle with either of our kids; they naturally fell into age-appropriate nap schedules at daycare from the time they were three months old, and it’s something we have maintained pretty religiously: play, lunch, nap. Although we were diligent about naps, we weren’t totally strict. Life happens and sometimes the nap-window gets missed (vacations, visitors, time zone changes — I’m talking to you). Or even just a super-fun day you don’t want to press pause on.
At some point, though, kids give up their nap. Sometimes it’s in fits and starts over time, and sometimes they cross to No-Nap-Land cold turkey. Whenever this phase appears — especially if it’s your last baby — you may rejoice at all the freedom you now have. No longer are you tethered to working playdates, birthday parties and BBQs around naps. Amazing, right?! But you may miss the peace and calm that came from that sacred period of unscheduled time each day. And kids need downtime, too: time to be creative, to reset their minds and bodies, to just play.
So what’s a parent to do? Earlier bedtime? That may sound nice, but it’s not easy to execute when we don’t even get home from work til 6 p.m., and then have to start the evening routine of dinner, bath, books, bed …
Enter my hero: rest-time (or “quiet time”) something my best friend, who became a mom four years before I did and whose counsel I treasure, introduced me to. Though I had a couple years before I needed it, I kept her advice in my back pocket and now, while our preschooler naps, our first-grader has rest time in her room. She knows she can color, read, braid her doll’s hair (her current obsession) write, or even close her eyes. But she needs to be quiet so her little brother can nap in peace. Sometimes, I’ll peek in and find her sound asleep in her bed with a tented book on her chest. School, soccer, gymnastics and Hebrew School can be downright exhausting. Other times, she uses the time to produce a new piece of art for our fridge.
If you’re in that in-between phase where your kid is done napping but you aren’t ready for a full day of non-stop parenting, rest-time is a gift. Of course, like nap-time, rest-time won’t last forever; sports and activities and social events will eventually take precedence. But until that happens, I’ll be over here savoring the sacred hour or two that is quiet time in my house. I hope you will, too.