Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The No-Nap Zone

 That which I had feared has come to pass. My children are no longer napping. 

I’ve had a good run, I’m aware. In fact those of you mothers whose children stopped napping at 18 months better not read this. My youngest child, who just outgrew her p.m. snooze a few weeks ago, is four and a half years old. 

Last summer, I was sure she was done taking her afternoon siesta, but I was fighting it hard, driving her around the block over and over again to get her to sleep; threatening; rewarding; praying. She didn’t seem ready to give it up (in that she was hysterical and cranky on the days she didn’t nap) and I certainly wasn’t either (ditto the hysterical and cranky). I was afraid that if she didn't sleep in the afternoon, I would never accomplish another thing, my afternoons becoming a wasteland in which I did nothing but meet tedious needs and entertain a small grumpy person until dinner and Daddy's return home.

In fact, it was last summer that I, in desperation, slammed the door on my exhausted child who was still trying to sneak out of her bed, and snapped the “Nap Zone” sign, above, into three pieces between the door and the door jamb. Even in my distraught state, I felt I had just acted out a metaphor. 

But now, as my child is fully developmentally ready, the fear-inducing state of living in a “No Nap Zone” is not so bad. In fact, it is very freeing. I have, in fact, been a slave to the nap schedule of my children for eight years. Or perhaps a servant of it, which connotes choice. 

Now we pick up Sophia from school and see the afternoon as an open slate. I can actually run an errand after 2 p.m. or even schedule a play date. Sophia can have a friend over and I don't have to shush them. We can go to the pool, or Disneyland. Or, I can turn a movie on early and take a nap myself. (I did this yesterday.) The weekends, with wide-open afternoons, are a revelation! 

True, I haven't posted a blog since April 5, as I am now very rarely alone. But there are lots of surprising up sides to No Nap-dom. 

It occurs to me that in the last 8 years, I have navigated many stages: newborn (no sleep), infant (some sleep), nursing, bottle feeding, baby foods, solid foods, crawling, walking, running, getting stitches, toddlerhood, going to preschool, going to grade school. Working mother, full-time stay-at-home-mother. We've been a single stroller family, a double stroller family, and this week -- perhaps as significant as the End of Napping -- we are now a no-stroller family. 

At every stage, I have striven to enjoy the present, and I think I've done fairly well. But honestly, at every stage, there has been something I yearned for and something I dreaded about the next milestone. Some of the things I yearned for (like a child crawling) turned out to be pretty tricky; note that I only yearned for this with the first child. Some things which I experienced great anxiety over, like going from two naps to one, turned out to be easier than I expected. 

Right at this very moment, I am at a stage of parenting that I never actually pictured. Before mommyhood, I fantasized about babies and my daughter's wedding day; I had a hazy dread of teenagers. Everything else was unconsidered territory. So here I am with kids out of early childhood, before adolescence, and I am suddenly wiser than ever. For I realize that I really have no idea what to expect next, which I never did about any of the other stages either. And though I am not quite fearless about the future, neither am I fear-filled. 

Parents are very lucky in one particular way: we are reminded almost daily, and certainly about every six months, that life is unpredictable. Our seasons and stages are marked by our kids', and we either bend or break in the winds of their change. In truth, life is unpredictable for everyone, whether you are a childless CEO with a PhD or a peasant goatherd in the Savannah (are their goatherds in the Savannah?). But whereas the CEO might believe he can create stability and predict the future (not sure what the goatherd might think), a present parent had that illusion shattered around Week Three of Child One's life. 

So, back to the No Nap Zone, my uncharted territory. It feels like the beginning of a new adventure. So, does anyone feel like a p.m. play date? 'Cause I have a long way to go until dinner.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I'm Not Crazy

In January I posted a list of things that were going to change about myself this year. It was inspired by the discovery that buying a new coffee maker was not going to suddenly turn me into a person that cleaned out the coffee maker in a timely manner. I vowed to slow down enough to pay attention to details: details that, when neglected, resulted in a messy house and going to the store without my list or coupon.

Let's check in and see how I'm doing, shall we? Well, my bedroom floor is mostly clear of clothes, and my coffee pot is cleaned and set to automatic brew about five days out of seven. Not too shabby. The coupon and list thing is harder.

But last week something glorious happened. I spent 35 minutes ransacking my house, looking for a 25% off Old Navy coupon that I needed in order to get a price adjustment on a Hello Kitty bathing suit for Livie before the 10-day-after-purchase clock ran out. This search was accompanied by self loathing and mommy swear words ("Where the poop is that stinking coupon? I saw it right here on the friggin kitchen table!"). I never found it.

For years these searches have included at least one accusation of the other members of my household. "Who moved my list/mail/book/coffee cup? I set it right here!" Hubby is extremely annoyed by this. History has told him that this is all my fault.

But three days after the coupon search, I was helping Sophia find a word in the dictionary, and there, on my eight-year-old's desk was my Old Navy coupon! She had taken it from the kitchen table and been using it as a book mark.

Oh, the joy I felt. Not only was I still within the 10-day price adjustment period, but here was proof that not every lost item in the house was lost by me. I'm not crazy! Sometimes, something really was where I remember seeing it last, and someone else misplaced it! I even called Hubby at work to tell him. He did not take quite the same view of the situation, believing that this was the exception.

Well, of course it is. But even if my lost items are someone else's fault only 3% of the time, I still have hope in those minutes of self-loathing. I might have filed this item in just the right place as I intended, and one of my little munchkins may have moved it.

I'm clinging to that small victory, because this story doesn't have a happy ending, actually. Though I did get my coupon back, I still forgot to bring it the next time I was at the mall, having dinner with girlfriends and shopping kids' sale racks. Also, I bought two new shirts for Livie, thinking I could use a rewards certificate I did remember. Unfortunately, it was not valid for four more days.

"Don't worry, you can come back, return it, and use your reward bucks next week," the cashier, who at this point is the person in the world with the most faith in my abilities, said. Yes, I guess I could. Here's hoping.