Naptime superstitions


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owl above crib

There is a certain time in a baby’s life when he starts to morph right before your very eyes. Baby fat melting away. Chubby little legs supporting weight and, though wobbly at times, taking him to (almost) all the places he wants to go. Fingers and voice combining to indicate wants and needs. Baby becomes toddler. And it is so beautiful to watch.

Beautiful… until 3pm, about every other day, when said toddler should be napping but instead begins to flirt with this one-nap concept, standing in his crib and howling at the top of his lungs.

And though I know that this is developmental, on target, just another step on the long road of growing up, I resist.

Because although he is quite moving toward the land of fewer naps, he is not quite ready yet. Although he thinks, some days, that he can get by with a scant hour and a half of morning sleep, he can’t quite yet. So we do the afternoon nap time dance. Somedays sleep arrives at 3pm. Somedays by 3:30pm. Somedays not at all. And just when I’ve given up, decided that it must be time, and begin planning the transition, he sleeps the minute his head hits the mattress at 3pm and I get a moment of quiet to rest and feel utterly confused.

So each day, we play the game. Will he? Or won’t he?

And I develop some very strange naptime superstitions.

For a while, in the beginning of this journey, I thought bath time was the key. Pre-nap bath time. With lavender soap. Calming and quieting. A little free playtime in the water to make happy his toddler soul. And one day, it worked. From bath to peaceful afternoon slumber. So we began drawing baths at 2:15 every afternoon and it was lovely.

Until it wasn’t.

The day that he, smelling so sweetly and with hair so clean it shined, stood straight up in his crib moments after I left his room, was the end of pre-nap baths.

Not long after the passing of the baths, I noticed how quickly and easily he slept after a couple of hours of dedicated-Mommy playtime. Me and him and a puzzle or some legos. No distractions, no interruptions. Just us and playing. And on top of the sheer loveliness of living in the moment with him was the loveliness of a peaceful hour at 3pm.

And so, after that, we scheduled some serious afternoon playtime. And it was lovely.

Until it wasn’t.

The day that, after two hours of full on, completely engaged, happy playtime, he stood straight up in his crib moments after I left his room, I cried.

I’ve tried diapering him in a diaper with the same character that he wore the last time he went down smoothly (Oscar the Grouch, for the record). I’ve tried dancing with him before nap to the same song. I’ve tried reading the same book. I’ve done everything I can think of to recreate a successful naptime every time I put him down.

And it is all wildly superstitious. It reminds me of stories you hear about sports teams and coaches doing outlandish things leading up to a big game. And you know? I get that now. Because I’d gladly wear the same pair of underwear every single blessed day if it meant this kid would sleep in the afternoon.

But it won’t. Because it’s developmental. It’s a journey. Somedays he will sleep and somedays he won’t and it has very little to do with baths and playtime and Oscar diapers. It has to do with growing and moving and testing and trying. It has to do with the 2-nap life beginning it’s slow fade from our lives. And believe me, there are few things I look forward to more than having our days back, free to venture out at any time of day, free of internal clocks set for when little heads must rest in beds. But I know we’re not yet there. Because some days, he sleeps. And when he doesn’t, we all know that he needed to.

And I’m trying to embrace the process. Marvel at the development and help him on the days when settling down in the afternoon is just beyond his reach.

But, still… last week he slept after we went to the post office and then the grocery store. And I think, if I look hard enough, I can find something we’ve got to put in the mail today.


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