The Nap Time Dance


Everyone knows, for a parent in the baby/toddler stage of life…nap time is the holy grail of priorities. Nap time gives you a sweet little slice of downtime in what can sometimes (most times) be a 12+ hour work day. Now don’t take me the wrong way when I say work day, but being “on” for a tiny human for every waking second of their life is no easy task. Being at someone’s beck and call every day, all day, is not for the meek. Due to this fact, parents will go to great lengths to coordinate/plan/execute nap times for their kids. 

It. Must. Happen. 

Not to mention the fact that if said children choose not to participate in the carefully orchestrated nap time festivities, a mighty storm of emotions too big for any one mom or dad to handle will tear through the household come four or five o’clock. Just in time for trying to get them to eat vegetables at dinner.

The first time I got my 21 month old and newborn to nap simultaneously I felt like a maternal goddess. Newborns sleep a lot but aren’t really into a schedule of any kind just yet. My son was a napping champion at that age, out like a light at 1PM daily. I remember cranking up those white noise machines to full blast, living in a constant state of panic that her newborn cries would wake him up. For the most part, we made it through alright. Though I remember mentally acknowledging the first time she fussed and cried right up until he woke up. No Netflix and secret snacks for Mommy today, I pitifully thought to myself. 

As time flew by, it became more and more about making sure they were both awake at the same times so they could sleep at the same times. One sleeping in too late (let’s be serious that doesn’t happen a lot at our house)…wake them up! Mid-morning sleepiness? Power through. Notice one starting to doze off in the car on the way home from a morning play date? NOPE, not on my watch! Many parents, myself included, are masters of the don’t-fall-asleep-in-the-car dance. Though the quiet commute seems like a nice little reward, if it means you lose the anticipated nap time bliss, it’s so not worth it. We talk, sing songs, play games, even roll down the window (desperate times call for desperate measures). A wise mommy-friend taught me the trick of packing kid lunches in the car to be eaten on the way from morning activities. Nothing keeps a toddler awake like string cheese! Always thankful for mommy friends who have been there, done that, and have advice. 

When my son started to show signs of dropping afternoon nap, I had to get creative. Now I am all for the idea of quiet time and for those of you that are pulling it off, here’s my virtual high five. But here’s what happened when I tried it:

1. Coaxes anxiety-riddled toddler into staying in bedroom, promising to come back after Sissy starts her nap.

2. Rushes into baby’s room, trying to pull off nap time routine. Hears toddler loudly banging feet/fists/head against his door. 

3. Lays baby down in the crib, at which time toddler enters the room with a loud question. Baby upset. Repeats steps 1-3. 

4. Successfully lays baby down in a quiet environment, smiles confidently. 

5. Exits baby’s room to find that toddler has quietly smeared Desitin all over microsuede couch.

So…yeah. I settled on a hybrid routine, involving my son laying on the couch with me as my daughter snoozed away upstairs. I call it “Quiet-er time”. Some days it works well, other’s he strategically picks at my last nerve until I lose it and quiet time officially ends. 

The problem with this routine is that just about the time baby sis wakes up, big brother goes to the dark side. You know the dark side. The 4-year old that should have napped, but didn’t. The child that rose for the day before 6AM and has hit a wall so hard that all heads involved are spinning. The dark side. I know many parents can relate to this classic scene. A baby that didn’t wake up so chipper, clingy and moody. An older sibling that is now emotionally unstable, and honestly kind of mean! We do it day after day, after day. I know my sweet boy doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. Sleep deprivation can do some crazy things to us all. 

So the nap time dance continues. We hop in the car to “run errands”. And by hop, I mean exert at EXTREME amount of effort involving diaper change/potty/shoes/snacks and drinks/buckling into car seats. All to see that 4-year-old head nod off as we exit the neighborhood. 

At the end of the day, what works for one family isn’t necessarily going to fly for the next. We all have our own unique nap time dance. Our own little parenting blueprint that gets us through each day with these beautiful, delicate creatures. And FYI- any given routine has an expiration date and then it’s back to the drawing board! Whatever your nap time dance involves, I salute you. Here’s to the Netflix and secret snacks in your future.