Monday, January 4, 2010


Frances is sometimes giving up her naps, but not always. I talked before on the blog about how we were napping together, but then a few weeks ago she stopped wanting to nap as I lay there beside her with my eyes shut. She wanted to poke at my closed eyes, or move my hair from one side of my face to the other, or grapple with the cat at the foot of the bed, or make her babies talk, or wiggle and squirm and generally make my napping difficult (it is all about my napping, not hers, after all). I got very annoyed. We had a bit of an emotional tussle and I finally told her that if she couldn't be still and quiet she had to go to her room and lie on her bed. She didn't want to lie on her bed, because it turns out she didn't want to nap. I don't know why it took me several times of this before I realized she was not going to and that this was okay. What I needed from her was not a nap but just some quiet time, for her to settle down and rest a bit, and for me to get a few minutes of horizontal eyes closed.

So now I do what a zillion moms all over the earth do--I have her play quietly in her room for Quiet Time. I don't know why this seemed so radical a solution to me. I've set up a lego doll house on a small table and against one wall of the room she's organized a virtual doll dorm, all the babies lined up in their beds. She's got her lacing cards in there and some magnetic paper doll style things made of wood instead of paper and she can play with whatever she likes as long as she stays in her room. Some days she plays the whole time and doesn't sleep. Other days she plays a while and then climbs up on her bed and takes a long nap. Yesterday when I went to peek I found her asleep inside her laundry hamper turned over on its side on the floor, only her feet sticking out.

The other issue has been bedtime. Oh my goodness does she delay and delay, offering deals and pleading and sometimes refusing outright. When she does get in bed finally, we can expect to see her downstairs several times after. I count on time after bed to be able to straighten up the house and do the dishes and hang out with Mitch and clear my brain with knitting and bad tv while he works. Mitch asked his sister-in-law (who often has brilliant but simple solutions to our kid problems) what we should do about Frances' not wanting to go to sleep and she said, "let her stay up later. Or get her up earlier." Well.

Oh the logic that defies me. At first her solution seemed comical in its obviousness, and I thought it didn't help at all. But when I thought about it, it seemed clear this is all connected to her nap. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before. She'd already been telling me she didn't want to nap any more.

The result is that I've given up trying to control her sleep, and I let her control it instead. I feel completely relieved that I no longer have to take responsibility for it, and she feels freed from sleep captivity. She plays in her room for quiet time and decides if she's tired enough to sleep. If she does sleep, we let her stay up later at bedtime (because there's no point at all in putting her down earlier...) though she has to spend the last bit of that time playing quietly so the adults can get their adult work done. If she doesn't nap we put her to bed earlier because if we don't she melts into a whining crying puddle. And since I've started this, I'd say she ends up napping 4 of 5 days.

This is a rather long post for what seems to most obvious of problems and solutions. The reason I'm writing about it is that it hasn't struck me as obvious at all. Instead, to me it feels radical. It's really challenged the way I think about my parenting, the role I pay as parent, what is in my control and what isn't (what should be and what shouldn't). It's been a big thing in her life too I think--made her think differently about the control she has over her own world. The result is that our power struggles have diminished a lot. Thank goodness.


Anonymous said...

OMG, Cali! I'm right there with you. Genevieve still naps but it took me a really, really, really long time to finally accept the fact that Nathan was no longer going to nap. He's been having quiet time now for a little over a year and generally it works well. We found the same thing; the more we forced him to nap not only did we have more power struggles and screaming but it took him FOREVER to fall asleep at night which just about pushed me over the edge. Once we stopped with the naps and transitioned to quiet time he started falling asleep within 10 minutes of going to bed. Like you, I like to have my routine be predictable and when change comes my way (as it always does) it's quite the struggle until I finally figure it out. Maybe some day I'll be able to figure it out a lot earlier :)....would probably make life easier in general.

elizabeth said...

Regarding sleep, have you read Nurture Shock? You don't have to read it all, but the second chapter, on sleep, is great.

Shara said...

It's so true that the napping is about us more than about them. Well, they frequently need the break, too, but the more they need it the less they want to take it. I'm lucky because B still stays in the crib. Actually this morning I found him making a pitiful attempt to lift his foot higher than knee level. "Can't do that, mama." (slight pout) "That's ok!" (evil chuckle) I stick him in there between 10 and 12 every day. And at 6 every night. And plenty of times it takes him close to an hour of babbling before he finally conks out. I do feel guilty, of course. But what would we do without our down time. He needs a break from me as much as I need a break from him! (That's from that book you gave me!)

Cynthia Hand said...

I've been having the same issues with Will and naps. He was a marvelous, predictable sleeper as a baby. He ALWAYS slept 10-12 and 3-5, every single day. And then he transitioned to 1 nap a day, and all last years he napped pretty solidly from 1 to about 4. During this time I wrote my novel. And now, sometimes he naps. Sometimes he doesn't. And I totally realize that my panicky reaction has nothing to do with my child getting the proper amount of sleep, and everything to do with the question, "WHAT WILL I DO IF I DON'T GET THOSE PRECIOUS COUPLE OF HOURS TO WORK?!!!!" Your post really spoke to me, got me thinking, in a radical way, like, what if I don't try to control everything?