Back when I was a nanny, I knew everything there was to know about parenting, and was happy to explain it. Naps were among my favorite topics to enlighten people on. I just could not comprehend how, in some families, toddlers and preschoolers were not napping.
“My mum made all four of us nap until kindergarten,” I would exclaim.
I knew that all those poor non-napping children needed was a better routine. A predictable schedule. Some blackout curtains.
Well, karma really does come around, and I birthed a child who hated naps from the start.
No matter how scheduled our routine was, no matter how dark the room or how comfortable the sleeping arrangements, she wasn’t interested.
I’m quite sure that, in the two years since her birth, I have napped more than she has.
And yet, we’ve survived.
Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
1. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” is the cruelest thing you can say to a new parent.
It sounds oh-so-simple, doesn’t it? Just like my sleep advice sounded all those years ago, before I knew the harsh reality of parenting.
It’s impossible to sleep when the baby sleeps if the baby is only down for 10 minutes at a time!
In our house, the nap routine usually went something like this: Put baby down on any relatively safe surface (a crib, you say? Ha!); sneak ninja-style out of the room, expertly avoiding squeaking floorboards; pee; refresh Facebook while on the toilet; think, Oh dear lord, please no. That was a cat meowing, not a baby crying, right? Right?!
2. Never, ever comment on other families’ sleep patterns.
Joking about a kid who doesn’t nap is one thing, but I am back from the front lines to tell you that when you’re living it, it is no laughing matter.
Once, a simple question from the pediatrician about how my daughter was napping made me burst into tears.
If someone you know has a kid that’s not sleeping, I guarantee that they’ve looked up and tried every possible solution, probably twice. Don’t pour salt on that wound.
3. Know when to quit.
I tried for months to get my daughter on a predictable sleep schedule, and it just wasn’t happening.
Finally, I gave up. Clearly, all my attempts to control her sleep rhythms were failing.
When I finally stopped trying to impose my will, things got easier. She still didn’t nap, so I was continuously tired, but at least I wasn’t tired, angry, and frustrated.