|Why is he so bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 5AM?!|
Nap time is a stay-at-home Mom's favorite time of day. Mainly because it's a welcome break from non-stop kid time, but also because it gives one a chance to get stuff done, like dishes, laundry, work, or, if we're being super real about it, watching the latest episode of The Bachelor.
What happens when the dreaded day arrives and your kid no longer needs a nap?
You run right out into oncoming traffic and throw yourself in front of a moving car!
I'm joking. Though in a certain sense that does seem more pleasant than spending 12 non-stop hours with my toddler.
I know that the timing is appropriate - he's three years old, after all - but I'm loathe to give up the two hours of alone time that I've enjoyed for the past several years. I know it sounds selfish, and that I should be happy to have two more hours during each day in which to enjoy my son's company, but this is reality, folks, and three year olds often act like the Devil's Spawn. The only thing that's gotten me through the bad days thus far was the quiet respite of my hellion sleeping peacefully in his room.
The clues that we were in the twilight days of the afternoon nap have been creeping up on us for a while:
Later (and later and later) bedtimes. I used to brag about having a kid who was fast asleep by 7:00pm every night, but Karma's a bitch. In the last few months Noah wasn't falling asleep until 9 or 9:30pm. Oh sure, the kid was in his bed, but instead of falling asleep in a matter of minutes like he used to, it became a two hour process of snacks and water and books and songs and monster searches and screaming at the top of his lungs to get out of bed. You'd think all that activity would've worn the kid out, but it served to exhaust only one of us, and it wasn't him. If you're falling asleep before your toddler, that's clue numero uno that it might be time to drop his nap.
Earlier (and earlier and earlier) wake up times. I don't know about you, but I do not consider 5am to be an acceptable hour in which to start my day. You can quote every study you can possibly think of about the circadian rhythms of toddlers and how it's natural for them to start their day before people are getting home from the after hours clubs, but Mama don't play that. If you want to wake up before 6:45am, you better find a new family, kid. On the days when Noah napped at school he would fall asleep super late and wake up super early and Mommy would be super grumpy. If your kid is waking up before you used to get home from partying in your single days, it might be time to drop his nap.
Restless sleep syndrome. When you have a newborn baby who wakes you up every 45 minutes, you dream of the mythical day when he or she will sleep through the night. Your sexual fantasies no longer involve sex, just 12 hours of uninterrupted, life-affirming rest. Once your kid starts sleeping through the night, you think you've reached the finish line of tiredness. Oh, how wrong you are! There are sick nights and nightmares in your future, and if your kid is sleeping too much during the day, chances are he's going to wake up every hour wanting to play with his toys. Yes, this sounds cute but I promise it gets less and less cute every hour on the hour for six nights in a row. If your kid is waking up and screaming about playing with Thomas the Train at 12am, 2am, and 4am, it might be time to drop his nap.
Three is the magical number. Once kids turn three, they need less sleep. I guess their brains and bodies aren't developing at as rapid a rate as they were when they were babies, so instead of requiring 16 hours of rest in a 24 hour period, they only need 12-13 hours. If your kid is snoozing peacefully in the middle of the day for a couple of hours, then he's not going to need (or want) to sleep for very long at night. Unfortunately, three is also the magic number when Mommy finally starts to think she's gotten the schedule all figured out, and then the nap dropping throws that all to sh*t.
This, therefore, leads to a fork in the road for toddler parents: do you continue with the nap, and let your kid sleep less at night, just to maintain the semblance of peace in the middle of your day?
Or do you power through, running on caffeine and willpower, all the while reminding yourself that it will be worth it when your kid falls dead asleep at 6:30pm?
I'm firmly in the latter camp. Sure, I miss that respite from parenting in the middle of the day - my house is filthy, I've fallen behind at work, I haven't showered for who knows how long - but I'd far rather have my evenings to myself. That 6:30pm bedtime gives me plenty of time to catch up on trashy TV, and The Bachelor is so much more enjoyable when viewed while drinking a large glass of wine.