Tuesday, September 3, 2013

And then there was one

HP is officially a one-nap-a-day guy.   

Hallelujah!

I know many parents are loathe to drop a nap and the accompanying alone time that comes with it.  But for us, it has been nothing short of amazing.

I am a big proponent of sleep, both for myself, my offspring, and really anyone I know. While I was itching to make the switch, I held off as long as possible.  I knew that if he would still go down for two naps, he needed two naps, even if he could technically get by on one.

HP has been on the verge of eliminating a nap for the last month, but was not quite there. He refused to fall asleep for his afternoon nap about half the time, but was just exhausted by the end of the day if he only napped in the morning. 

I always thought that most children drop their morning nap, not their afternoon one, but that was not the case for HP.  He was always so ready to take a nap in the morning and would fall asleep within minutes. It did not feel right to try and keep him awake in the morning when he clearly needed to be sleeping, even if I knew it meant he would not nap later in the day.

As a short term measure to ease his transition (and maintain my sanity), we started having a "rest time" in the afternoon in lieu of a nap. When it is "rest time" I put him down on his bed and turn out the lights, just like I would for a nap, but without the expectation that he would actually fall asleep.  Usually he lays down quietly for fifteen to twenty minutes and then plays by himself in the room for another ten. When he's ready to rejoin the world, he knocks (well, bangs) on the door.

The key to rest time was letting go of the idea that he should be sleeping. When I was trying to get him to take a nap in the afternoon, we would both get frustrated. I was frustrated that he wasn't sleeping, and he was frustrated that I was trying to make him sleep. Then, on top of my frustration, I would feel guilty that I had tried for so long to get him to nap instead of spending that time interacting with him. Fail all around.

Now that he rests rather than naps, we are both happier. Even though he is only in his room for a short while, it makes a huge difference in our lives. We both get alone time to recharge and are much happier when we are reunited. Win-win.

At first he was napping from 9-11 a.m. and then resting around 3 p.m. This week is he started resting at 9 a.m., napping from 11-1 (or 2!), and then resting again around 4 p.m. He still has an early bedtime--he starts getting ready for bed at 6:30 and we are out of his room by 6:50.

I am guessing that his nap time may eventually move to noon or a little after, but for now the 11 a.m. time slot is working well for us. He is still napping/resting close to the same number of hours (3) he did when he took two naps, he is just combining them instead of spreading them out.

I have been looking forward to this transition and the freedom it brings for months. Now that we have longer stretch of awake time on either end of his nap, we can more easily get out of the house and go on adventures. In the mornings we still stick close to home since I learned through experience how much he needs that first rest time. If we skip it and head out on an adventure, he gets overwhelmed.  But the afternoon is fair game for a trip to the pool, splash pad, park, or play dates with friends. If we're home, he'll rest in the afternoon, but if we're out, it's no problem for him to go straight through to bedtime.

I hesitate to the sing the praises of life with a one-nap-a-day child too much since the switch is so new and we are still tweaking his schedule. That said, my days now feel balanced in a way they have not since HP joined the family. Before, I always felt like I was sacrificing some of my needs to meet his. Now, meeting my desire for social interaction with other adults lines up with both his napping schedule and his desire to explore new places and people. I think that developmentally he benefits from our trips out of the house as much as I do, which I would not have said until recently. We still try to keep it low-key so he is not overstimulated (read: lots of parks with plenty of time to slow down and do life at his pace), but it no longer feels like our needs are competing.

One nap a day. It's a beautiful thing.

2 comments:

  1. Less beautiful: No naps a day. Ophelia is moving in this direction and I do not like it. She will occasionally nap for a couple hours after lunch but most of the time she is just in her room singing with her stuffed animals. She is crabby pants by 6 pm and Dad gets home at 7, so there's also the guilt of putting her to bed before Dad gets to see her and hang out.

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    1. No naps! I cringe at the thought. I hope we are a long, long way off from that day, but I know that time will come eventually. Growing up, we had quiet time in our house every afternoon for an hour or so until we started school. We did not have sleep, but we had to be quiet, and in our rooms. My mom said it was essential for her sanity. Fingers crossed we still have awhile before the sleeping stops though. (One can dream, right?)

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