There will come a day, and that day is more-or-less rapidly approaching, when our lives will no longer be subject to the tyranny of the nap. It must happen: my youngest is 4 years old and headed to Pre-K in the fall. The nap must go. I am deeply ambivalent. What will I do then?
1. I will make lunch dates and afternoon plans (before 3 pm!) again.
We can go on day-long trips on the weekend as a family! Attend birthday parties that start at 2 pm! Did you know there is a whole world out there happening during naptime? I imagine the experience will be like when I was a child out of school for a dentist appointment, marveling at the traffic and people all out and about while I thought it was only school that happened in the middle of the day. Freedom!
2. I will no longer kid myself about accomplishing anything during that hypothetical block of time.
My naptime frenzy of accomplishment ebbs and floes, sometimes frittered away because I addressed the urgent needs too quickly then wasted a surprise extra stretch, or at other times when I desperately need to be productive, the dear child boycotts the nap or severely truncates it, waking a mere 30 minutes later and declaring it finished.
3. I will nurture deep empathy for those parents and children in that volatile space of “giving up the nap.” Tis a fragile time for all involved, and while some, I understand, pass through it with little fanfare, it can be a STRUGGLE. I remember attending a 4 year old birthday party when my older daughter was that age, and the twin sisters whose party it was took turns bursting into tears. “They have had to stop napping in preparation for Pre-K, which is going to be in the afternoon,” another parent whispered to me. I exhaled a sigh, re-calling how I had anxiously plotted when my daughter was originally assigned to the afternoon class (thank heavens a spot opened up in the morning). Godspeed to those teachers, I say. The necessity of naptime with my oldest was a constant reminder that I was not truly in charge. If I didn’t honor the nap, we would all suffer.
4. I will certainly yearn for the days of naps gone by (despite how pleased I am to be freed from the tyranny of the nap over our schedule). For that break in the day to be by myself, to clear my brain, restore my patience, recover my chill, especially on the weekends and holidays. For the chance for my daughters to recover the ability to regulate their emotions and behavior, the re-set that divided their days into more manageable halves, for the built-in reason to take a break. We will all miss it.
5. I will resist stereotyping the nap as something only toddlers and babies need!
“The toxic systems at work do not want you to embrace rest. On a spiritual level rest has the ability to wake you up to your true power and divinity. Rest connects and heals us. A healed and rested mind allows you to truly see who you are. This sight can change the world.”
And behold, I felt like I had been to church! As a pastor for whom a post-church nap is a necessary part of the liturgy, I recognize I am already inclined in this direction. But you feel the truth in that too, don’t you? Napping, even for adults, is an antidote to measuring our worth by our accomplishments. It is in line with mindfulness, an act of resistance and healing. I want my kids to experience such practices their entire lives.