“Okay, guys. Naptime!”
“Not me!” says Gwynn. She has said this every day for the last three weeks. Every day, she denies that naptime applies to her just-turned-two self, and every day I say, “Yes, you, silly,” and escort her to bed. Where she falls asleep. Every day.
Today I take a different approach. After I have put the babies down in their cribs, I return to the kitchen, where Gwynn sleeps on a low to the floor toddler cot. She is sitting on it, playing with a small toy. Her pillow is at one end, her sheet folded neatly at the other.
I stand beside the cot, so she has to look up, waaaaay up, to see me. “So, Gwynn. You think you don’t need a nap?”
That catches her attention. I haven’t spoken in a challenging or derisive way.
Note: I am never sarcastic with the kids. In my own head, I’m often ironic, but that’s in my own head. Once in a while I say something wry that I know will go shooting wildly right over their heads, just for my personal entertainment. But sarcasm? Sneering? Mean-spirited humour? Nope. I feel very strongly that using sarcasm with a small child is simply unkind. They don’t understand sarcasm. It confuses them. They certainly understand the emotion behind it is negative, but they are not yet cognitively capable of processing that kind of duality. Besides, it’s just mean.
So when I ask that question, I am playing it straight. I am confirming that she thinks naps are unnecessary. That is not all I am doing, but Gwynn doesn’t know that… and doesn’t need to.
From her seat at the edge of the cot, she tips her head waaaay back to look at me. “No. I don’t want a nap.” Now, any adult knows that ‘want’ and ‘need’ are two quite different things. Gwynn doesn’t want a nap, no, but I am quite convinced that she still needs one. Gwynn makes no such distinction, of course. She doesn’t want one. She doesn’t want one, and that’s that. ‘Need’ is irrelevant. She, however, is pleased to be having this conversation. Maybe Mary is finally going to be reasonable about this whole nap thing!!
“Well, here’s what I was thinking,” I begin. Gwynn, finding this head-tipping thing a bit awkward, lies back with her head on her pillow to better see me. “What I was thinking was that, since you are a Big Girl now, maybe you don’t need a nap. So here’s what we’ll do.”
Gwynn’s eyes are riveted on mine. Big Girl? No nap? This is all very hopeful! She lies very still, hanging on my every word.
“What we’ll do, from now on, is, instead of naptime, you will have quiet time. You can have a toy or a book. You don’t have to sleep, but you do have to stay on your cot. You can play quietly. Does that sound good?”
She nods. She blinks. I keep talking, quietly, steadily.
“You can stay awake and play quietly. You can go to sleep if you want. You just have to stay on the coat. You have to stay on the cot. You have to use your quiet time voice. But you don’t have to sleep. So long as you have a quiet time, I don’t mind if you stay awake. It will be all right. You can just have a rest. You can rest and play quietly and not get up and just be calm and …”
Aaaaaand that’s it. Gwynn is out for the count.
The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Naptime reins.
Daniel, who, at three and a half, doesn’t necessarily need a nap every day, has a “little lie-down” on a small cot in the kitchen. He’s put there with a couple of books and a soft doll and told to lie quietly for 20 minutes. If he hasn’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, he’s allowed up to indulge in quiet activities.
(This is what I do with all borderline nappers. Sometime between two and a half and three and a half, generally, children give up their naps, but of course this is a process, not an overnight event. What to do while they’re transitioning from napper to non-napper? They get a quiet lie-down instead.
Now, they have to actually be quiet, and the first few times they’re given a quiet lie-down option, we learn what that means. Kicking your feet around in the air, tossing and turning, chattering and singing, well, that’s not quiet. If they do those things, they have to stay on their cot longer, until they manage quietude … or until naptime is over, whichever comes first. They usually sort it out within a week or two.
When the nap vanishes depends primarily on their bedtimes. A child who goes to bed at 7 p.m. is going to give up their nap sooner than a child who goes to bed at 9. Stands to reason. When the family only manages to screech into their home, all together at the end of the day at last at 6:00 or so, you can see where parents might actually enjoy having some family time before popping the little ones into bed. So, naptimes persist later for children with later bedtimes. I can’t say I mind: naptime is happy time for caregivers and parents alike. Hand me that teacup, will you?)
The “quiet” of quiet time, once he’s out of his cot, is a relative term with Daniel. All Daniel’s activities are accompanied by a steady stream of chatter, and Daniel? He is not so good at the inside voice. Whispering, in fact, he manages better, so we usually go for that, but, as with all things Daniel, there is a HIGH ENERGY LEVEL to it. So he’s reminded to whisper, he manages it for two minutes or so, and then whispering gradually increases in volume through murmur, to soft voice, to inside voice to … “Daniel. It’s quiet time, remember. Whisper, please!” Lather, rinse, repeat.
But today, Daniel has had a nap. Not a long one, about 45 minutes or so. Now a steady stream of of tossing and turning, small bumps, rustling, sighs and yawns floats through the kitchen door. From where I sit in the dining room, I can see his legs, but not his face. Those legs are in steady motion. Oh, he’s got to be awake.
“Daniel? Are you awake?” This in a loud-ish whisper. Just in case he’s not quite awake. Also, hello? It’s quiet time!
No answer. With my soft question, all sounds from the kitchen abruptly cease. I move to the door to the kitchen. Daniel is curled on his side, still and quiet, but rigid as a board. This is not the relaxed abandon of sleep. His eyes are screwed tight shut. This is a wide-awake toddler faking sleep.
“Daniel? Are you awake?” A rhetorical question, obviously, but I’m entertained. Besides, when he tells me he’s awake, I can tell him he can get up.
“No. I’m sleeping. My eyes are shut.”
It was tempting, you know, to take him at his word and go finish my tea…
Our theme for the month is fairy tales. I’ve read lots of books and told lots of stories this month. Some have luscious language, some have luscious illustrations. Since I don’t stick to board books, or even the preschool section of the library, many were too wordy for this wriggly crew, and had to be shortened as we went, me telling the story that fit the picture and pretty much ignoring the text altogether.
THIS was one book I didn’t have to edit down. At all.
I loved it. The joke extends through the entire book, with the desperate dad making the stories shorter and shorter in an effort to get past “the end” to SLEEP! as quickly as possible. The joke is, of course, entirely lost on my crew, but I’d say children from about six on up will get the joke, as well as enjoy the stories.
I love the hints scattered through the text. At the end of “Small Girl, Red Hood”, the woodsman looks at the small girl and says, “Wow, I’m really tired, how about you?”
“Princess Pea” ends with this: “And so she married the prince. Is there a pea under your bed? Then what’s your excuse? Go to sleep.”
I think my all-time favourite is “The Old Lady’s Shoe”, quoted here in its entirety. (Which will take me roughly 63 seconds to type, I’m sure.)
There was an old lady
Who lived in a shoe.
She had so many kids.
She didn’t know what to do.
Stories were read
Until her face turned blue
When kids wouldn’t go to bed,
She sold them to the zoo.
(Wrong! 34 seconds!)
You know what this book is? It’s the precursor to Go the F**k to Sleep, without the all the f**k-ing. It’s more subtle (and thus, cleverer), and, unlike “Go the F**k”, it really is something you can share with your chidren.
Once Upon a Time, the End. Read it! You’ll love it.
(Your kids may not. Who cares?)
When I consider my profession, I tend to think of myself as simply… raising children. Of course, anyone who’s ever tried it knows that it’s not a simple thing. It’s demanding on so many levels: physical, psychological, emotional, intellectual, spiritual. But at the same time, I’m a woman raising children. Not all of them are my own. Some — most! — of them are other peoples’ children, children who I am co-raising alongside their loving parents. So, here I am, in my home, raising children.
Just like any other parent.
This afternoon I was feeling chilly, tired, a bit demoralized, generally weary. One of the things I enjoy when I’m feeling this way, something which warms and comforts me, is a nice soak in a pleasantly-scented tub. Relaxing, soothing, warming.
It was nap-time. Everyone was soundly asleep. The bathroom is on the same floor as the bedrooms. Were anyone to cry out, I’d be closer there than I am here, down in the livingroom. It would simply be a matter of throwing on my robe and checking it out. Were these my own children, I’d have had that bath.
But these are not my children, and so I didn’t.
I wonder why? Really? Parents take baths while their children sleep all the time. They even take showers, which, if you think about it, isolate you far more than a bath would. You can’t hear anything from outside the bathroom when you’re in a shower. I certainly took showers while my children slept. (Still do, but given that my ‘baby’ is 17, it’s not really an issue any more. 🙂 )
In fact, when I think about it, there are all sorts of things that parents do that I don’t. I avoid talking on the phone during when the kids are awake. I don’t drink (alcohol). I don’t invite a friend over for coffee mid-morning. (Though I certainly chat with other caregivers at the park — and don’t think there aren’t people out there who think I shouldn’t!)
Which brings us to the things I do do, that not everyone is convinced I should. I sit on the porch with a cup of tea and a book on a fine day while the children nap. Not everyone is comfortable with that. I let the older children mix with the younger children, just like in a real family!! (At least one couple out there thinks I shouldn’t be doing that.) I will leave husband or daughter in charge — again, during naptime — while I zip over to the corner store. Some poor caregivers are not even allowed to take their garbage to the curb during work hours!
I don’t know why I don’t feel comfortable taking a bath with the tots sleeping in their beds. As mother to my own children, I’d not have thought twice about it. As caregiver to someone else’s child, I don’t do it.
It’s sort of a weird job, that way.
A baby cries. I walk up the stairs and pause on the landing. Which of the three bedrooms did the cry come from?
Who knows? The baby, probably as a result of hearing my footsteps on the stairs, has stopped crying. I wait.
I guess he/she has gone back to sleep. I go downstairs. I sit with my tea and my laptop. Two minutes into my
next round of Scramble pithy, well-crafted words of wisdom, a baby cries. I walk up the stairs and pause on the landing…
We have now done this dance three times.
Once in a very long while, I can see an actual use for baby monitors.
It was a hot, hot day here yesterday. Our first truly hot day of the summer.
We made our trip to the park early, getting home before the sun hit its skin-sizzling zenith. Not that I have air conditioning, but with judicious use of curtains, standing fans and ceiling fans, the house was quite decently tolerable. (It won’t be after a week of this, but the heat is supposed to break in a couple more days.)
But it was a hot day, and three of the kids sleep upstairs, so I stripped them down before bed, just down to their diapers. No sheets required.
And then I did my nap-time stuff: finish preparing dinner, tidy the house a bit — from waist-level and up, that is; no sense in doing anything lower than that till the Mini Masters of Mayhem have gone home — set out craft, prepare afternoon snack, read a bit, have a cup of tea, and
waste time on the computer do some social networking.
Baby Lily was the last to wake. Baby Lily is becoming quite a
favourite charmer. From her first wailful weeks, her glass-shattering shrieks, her “GET AWAY FROM ME AND BRING BACK MY MUMMY!!!” rages, she has evolved into a chirpy, cheery, smiling, chattering — not many words, but lots and lots and LOTS of happyhappy chatter — absolutely adorable little mite. When another baby cries, she does not crumple in empathy, but continues in her unflappable good humour, inviting any and all to join her in her to-the-bone love of life. I loves this child.
Noah had announced his return to consciousness with the lilting calls from his room. “Maaaary! I’m awake! Maaaaaary!” It’s very sweet.
New Baby Boy had woken soon after, announcing his return with cries of outrage. “WHY am I still in this bed? WHY did I have to take that damned nap? What took you so long? WHY ARE YOU LIFTING ME OUT OF BED, EVIL WOMAN??? AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”
Emily, who, at four, snoozes on the couch on those days on which she requires a nap, simply sits up and, at a nod from me, proceeds into some quiet activity.
And Lily? Well. Normally I hear Lily moving about for quite a few minutes before she starts to call out. She wakes, she rummages about, she talks quietly to herself, and gradually, the volume increases until the happy babble becomes a call.
But today… today I thought I heard rummaging about… and then I wasn’t sure. Maybe? There it is again… no. Did I hear something and it stopped, or was there nothing? Hm. But there’s no chatter. This is Baby Lily, chatterbox of the decade. If there’s not chatter, she simply can’t be awake. The heat is just making her restless in her sleep. Yeah. That’s it.
Half an hour later, though, with all the other children awake and snacked, it’s time to wake the girl.
Lily smiles delightedly when I enter the room. “Up, up, up!” she greets me, her wee arms raised, her face a beacon of friendly welcome, her dark eyes sparkling. “Up, up, up!”
Her butt completely bare.
Her crib littered with teeny shreds of paper. (The paper liner of her cloth diapers.)
Her crib sheet wet with pee.
Her diaper on the floor beside her bed.
Baby Lily has learned to remove her diaper. Oh, happy day.
And THANK GOD it was just pee.
How do I love this? Let me count the ways…
1. It’s got the drone that so many babies love. (HOW do babies fall asleep to loud, steady noises? Beats the heck out of me, but we all know those who do. That incredibly annoying whine is probably soothing that kid. He definitely has that pre-sleep glazed look about the eyes. Either that or he’s being hypnotized by the sound. Either way, it’s all good!)
2. It’s steady movement — that the parent doesn’t have to do!! You can sit across the room and read your book while your tot is strolled into submission.
3. It’s ingenius. Top marks for creativity. If you have a drill, and a cheap stroller (I picked up one only this week for under $25), you can do this.
4. Your wife is probably killing herself laughing. WITH you, of course. With you.
5. All the other dads will be SO JEALOUS! Invite your friends over. The men will all talk HP and solder, and the women will snort their drinks out their noses in the kitchen. It’ll be very bonding for everyone.
Of course, you have to have a LARGE empty space in your home. My entire livingroom, even totally stripped of furniture, does not have that circumference. (Maybe someone could rig something similar using a treadmill??) Just like baby swings, you can’t leave the child unattended. I also wonder how long the battery on the drill will last. In my experience, those things aren’t all that powerful. (Granted, my experience with power tools (apart from a sewing machine) is limited…)
Still! GREAT idea, good execution — AND, the most important:
THE BABY IS QUIET, AND LOOKS SLEEPY.
What more could you ask?