Only a 2-year-old can make a relaxing, refreshing nap seem like a punishment for the entire family.
My wife and I are diligent about naptime. For the past five years, around 1:30 p.m. each afternoon we’ve tried to put our children – ages two and four – down for a nap. We’ve sat through tantrums, screamed at our children, switched the doorknob on their door for a time, and even witnessed our oldest urinating on the floor in protest.
It's been a blast!
Here’s what naptime looks like in our house: It begins with my wife or I politely reminding our two-year-old that it’s time to lie down. The second, third, and fourth times we tell him, we become less polite. By the fifth time, we are ordering our child into his room and threatening to take away every single toy he loves.
We begin quietly with books, transition to bed and turn on some soft music. With our oldest, it was tough love. All the parenting books taught us to leave our child in the room by himself so he would learn to fall asleep on his own. The books make it seem like a child would blissfully and peacefully drift off to sleep, tucked under his sheets with a smile on his face.
Once he learned that he could get out of bed, our fate was sealed. He got out to pee. He got out to retrieve a toy. He got out just to mess with us. It was ugly. And the more he got out of bed, the more frustrated I became and the less he was interested in sleep. Our arguments became epic and usually ended with my wife or I holding his door closed for almost an hour and him, passing out on the floor, exhausted.
We never read about that in any parenting book.
Finally, when he turned four, naptime died a quick and painless death.
The situation scarred my wife and I so much that we decided to try something different with our second child. We decided to lay down with him at naptime. We believed if we could avoid the tantrums and the arguments and, especially, the urinating on the floor, than all would be rosy.
Not so much.
Our youngest indulges in his own hijinks. He demands toys, demands that we rub his back until our arms fall asleep, and refuses to shut his eyes. (By the way, it is impossible to order another human being to shut their eyes. I never envisioned how infuriating that can be.) He has somehow managed to time his bowel movements with naptime so a large portion of naptime is spent in the bathroom.
Our three-year-old said to me once, “I don’t want to take a nap. I just want to be happy.” That pretty much sums up our experience.
The one benefit of laying down with our child at naptime is that we drift off to sleep way before he does. That 10-20-minute snooze is a real pick-me-up. If only our kids would understand that too.
But like all things, this too shall pass. Soon our youngest will move on from naptime and he’ll be up running around from morning until night with nary a break. The upside? He and his brother will be so tired that they will hopefully never have trouble going to sleep at night.