My youngest turned three earlier this year. He’s made it very clear he’s done with naps.
Really, he started dropping his nap long before I was ready to admit it. Far too soon, in my opinion. My now five-year-old twins didn’t begin to struggle with nap time until after they were three. So while I was pretty sure the end was in sight for my youngest, it still took me off-guard at just two-and-a-half.
I fought him for awhile. My youngest is so full of energy, so constantly on the move, that it seemed impossible he could be ready to drop his nap. Mostly because I need a break from him each day. Even though he was only napping for about an hour, it was an hour where I didn’t have to parent him. It was time, though. I could tell as bedtime turned into a battle. And he continued to jack-in-the-box out of bed at 8:45 pm…8:47…8:51…8:58…9:02…
I resigned myself to the inevitable. My twins transitioned from nap time to an hour-long quiet time fairly easily when they were three. And while we began working on a quiet time that worked for my youngest, the hours-long bedtime battle continued to confirm nap time wasn’t worth it anymore. Because fighting him at nap time AND bedtime, all to gain a single hour of reprieve a day, wasn’t worth it. Struggling over where and when to sleep made the whole experience stressful rather than relaxing.
When my twins stopped napping I remember casually mentioning it while at a friend’s house. I still recall where I was standing in her white kitchen, kids underfoot, with a whole group of moms for a playdate. I let the words leave my mouth, “The twins are dropping their nap” and every single mom present gave a collective, horrified gasp. As though I hadn’t just said nap time was ending, but something much, much worse. Like that we had all been in a terrible car accident or the kids had gotten severe sunburns or that we were moving to Nebraska.
I laughed at their response but I understood. It’s easy to have a sort of scarcity mindset around the idea of nap time. I’ve utilized nap time over the years for everything from eating my own lunch (in peace!), to reading and writing, to cleaning and prepping food for dinner and picking up toys – not to mention to complete countless tasks on my computer without little people hovering over my shoulders or attempting to bang on the keys.
This time around, though, just two years after that playdate announcement, and it seems like less of a loss.
Napping has never been one of my kids’ strong suits, for one. There was one fall – literally a single span of two to three months – when my then one-and-a-half-year-old twins consistently napped for three hours at a time. But that ended almost as soon as it began. Once the snow started flying they were back to napping no more than ninety minutes a day.
Also, while the quiet of nap time itself was bliss, the scheduling around it wasn’t always my favorite. Running errands or rushing home from preschool just to get everyone down could be chaotic. We often left playdates early to make it home for lunch and nap time. As they grew older I sought activities to wear them all out in the morning. Two-hour long open gym time! Membership to an indoor playground! Hitting up every park in a five-mile radius! Long walks and bike rides! Splash pads! Anything to help them crash at nap time.
And remember the three-nap days of babyhood? My youngest took three naps a day for almost a year. I still remember the structure of our days: putting him down for a morning nap early enough that he would wake in time for our morning activities, getting home for the aforementioned midday lunch-nap combo, and cutting our afternoon playtime short so he could take his 4 pm nap before dinner. And dark were the days we deviated from this schedule.
I suppose if I’m honest, I was a slave to nap time. It was always such an important anchor in our days. My kids and I tend to do better with routine, with a predictable schedule to structure our days.
It’s nice, though, especially during the warmer months, to be able to let go of our schedule a bit. While our day is still fairly structured – we eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at pretty regular times – it’s also not the end of the world if we eat lunch at 12:30 instead of noon. It doesn’t throw off our routine for the rest of the day or completely screw up bedtime. We can be more flexible in our adventures, drive farther, pay to experience things that weren’t worth it when getting home for nap time was an all-important piece of our day.
Oh, and did I mention bedtime? It’s now a piece of cake. My youngest goes to bed at 6:30. Yes, 6-freaking-thirty. He absolutely crashes. Evenings stretch out before my husband and me now that we’ve put the days of two-hour long bedtime battles behind us.
I once would have mourned this loss of nap time as a way for a midday break, but now, as my kids grow older and more independent, it seems like less of one. With two five-year-olds and a three-year-old, we’re transitioning to new phases and new routines in life. (And again: see that 6:30 bedtime. That’s what dreams are made of.)
So, goodbye, nap time. We’ve had a good run. I have fond memories of the hours my house was peaceful, where I would close the windows after putting the kids down because even the sound of traffic or a lawnmower infringed too much on the quiet. You helped me through mornings where the only reason we survived was because I knew you were right around the corner. Remember that 18-month stretch where all three of my kids napped at the exact same time? Good times. We made it through fights, growth spurts, and transitions and five years later, it’s time for us to part ways. Oh and I swear it’s not you; it’s my kids.