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Toddler Talk: Requiem For a Nap

In memory of nap time, which left my life too soon…

When you have a baby, naps take on a previously unimaginable significance in your life. In your pre-parenting life, naps were a rare Sunday afternoon treat, after a Saturday night spent clubbing or doing a movie marathon or whatever other fun things childless people do on Saturday nights that I no longer remember ever having done. Sure, maybe you gently snored through afternoon lectures in college. Or maybe you did covert power naps behind your computer post-lunch in office. But the nap was never an integral part of your life, the thing you planned your entire day around. The thing you looked forward to from the moment you woke up in the morning.

All that changes the day your newborn comes into your life. When you’re first told that you should “sleep when the baby sleeps”, you baulk at the idea. Nap at 11 o’clock in the morning? It seems so… wrong. But after that second or third sleepless night, you learn your lesson. If you don’t catch some zzz’s when your baby is napping, you’re going to unravel at the seams (well, you’re probably going to unravel anyway, but the occasional nap slows the process slightly).

As baby gets older, nap time settles into a (sort of) pattern. Morning nap and afternoon nap… a blessed hour or hour and a half each of peace and quiet, when you actually get a bit of time to yourself. You can shower uninterrupted. Catch up on waiting chores. Or go on Facebook and watch cat videos (it’s all about priorities). If the night was bad, you might even grab some shut-eye yourself. In other words, naptime is a stay-at-home mom’s idea of happy hour.

Once you enter the toddler years, things start getting rocky. You’re now deeply attached to the idea of naps, but your toddler has different ideas. The first thing to go is the morning nap (sigh), when your 15 or 16 month old decides she’s done wasting her precious time sleeping pre-noon. You then centre all your hopes on the afternoon nap. When your two year old starts resisting that as well, it means all-out war. You know she needs it. She knows she needs it. But she’s not going to give in without a fight. A daily afternoon battle of wills follows. There are days when you lose (these are not good days). But most of the time she eventually nods off, because she’s exhausted and can’t really cope without the snooze.

The real trouble begins when your toddler begins to out-grow the nap altogether. If you’re lucky, that won’t be until she’s four or older. If you’re not (like me), that happens around the age of three. The signs have been there for the last couple of months, though I’ve tried desperately to ignore them. The naps have been getting shorter and the timings more erratic. The battles have gotten bloodier, and I’ve been staggering away vanquished more often. Well, now it’s official. She no longer needs a nap during the day. She doesn’t sleep, and she’s just fine and dandy. Doesn’t even get cranky later in the evening. It’s done and dusted. Fini. Khatam. No more naps for my toddler.

And so, I write this article in memory of those blissful islands of daytime quietude I’ve enjoyed these past three years. When I actually got to post a blog entry or finish cooking or read list after pointless list on Buzzfeed. Or when I closed the curtains and pulled up the covers and enjoyed a sinfully delicious afternoon nap myself.

Ah, nap time… I will miss you. You were good to me. You swept unexpectedly into my life, and in this short time, you’ve become special to me. Now, all too soon, it is time for you to go. I wish I could hold on, but let go I must.

Farewell to you, my dear.

TIPS:

  1. Hard as it is, allow the progression from two naps to (sigh) no naps to happen naturally.
  2. You know your child best; watch for signs that she’s getting enough sleep.
  3. When it’s time to bid adieu to nap time, let go. Accept that it’s the end of an era

‘Toddler Talk’ is a weekly column that appears in The Hindu Metroplus on Tuesdays.

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Ten minutes in the life of a doll

I lay on on my toddler’s play mat tonight, overcome with a sort of lethargy, apathy, almost. Couldn’t get myself to move for any reason. She needed dinner… she needed her medicine… she needed to go to bed. For about 10 minutes, I just shut out those constant “mom-reminders” that ring in my head from morning to night, from the moment she wakes up to the moment she goes to bed at night. I didn’t want to think about everything that needed to be done, all the balls that I’m juggling, all those schedules that needed to be maintained. I just wanted to be, just another object lying on my daughter’s play mat.

And so I lay there. She was sitting right by me, reading a book. She stuck her foot into my nose and mouth a couple of times. Sat on my hip and bounced, announcing in delight that she was “jumping on amma”. She clambered over me, this way and then that, several times. She put her snack bowl over my face like an oxygen mask and watched me with the kindly attention of a ward nurse, to see how I’d react. I didn’t. It afforded her considerable entertainment, and for me it was strangely liberating. My day, just like every other day, had been spent monitoring what she was doing and wasn’t doing… “wear your clothes!” “don’t pull off your underwear!” “don’t throw the cup!” “come for your bath!”.  Now, since I was just another object on the mat, I could let it all be. For those ten minutes, it didn’t matter that she was sitting there playing bare-bottomed or that her cup lay in the far corner of the drawing room.

She lay next to me and played with my hair, humming under her breath. Then she gave me a hug and said, “Love you too, amma!” (the “love you” from my side was clearly a given). Then she went back to reading her book, her big toe lodged in my nostril again, apparently utterly contented. The child who’d spent the entire evening whining and clinging to me had disappeared. Some vestige of energy returned to my limbs and I sat up slowly. I reached for the discarded Peppa Pig undies, and wonder of wonders, she put it on without a fuss. Then I hoisted myself off the mat, ready for the dinner to bedtime drill.

My 10 minutes of suspended animation turned out to be the best thing I’d done all day. I’ve always wondered what it felt like to be one of my daughter’s favourite dolls. Contrary to what I’d assumed, it wasn’t a bad life at all.

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The post was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: Object over on The Daily Post.

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