Friday, July 12, 2013

On Why I Abolished Nap Time

I've done something that might at first seem kind of crazy.

I've abolished nap time.

Not for Cassandra, obviously, but for Henry.

See, Henry has always been the World's Worst Sleeper. As a baby he literally would not nap unless it was ON my body and it took until he was nearly two and a half (after a TON of dedicated work on Ryan's part) to get him to fall asleep by himself at night. He's just a tough cookie when it comes to sleep.

And in all this time I've never been able to get him to fall asleep for naps on his own. Never. Not ever. Never.

I've always had to lay with him in his bed until he would fall asleep and then I could either sneak out or else I would just give in and fall asleep too (the latter happening more often when I was pregnant).

Since Cassandra has been born this situation has been even more difficult. Most days I could bring her in and she and I would lay with Henry until he fell asleep. But then he became more and more and more obstinate and belligerent about naptime. He would thrash, he would kick, he would scream, yell, hit. He just put up a literal fight.

I would look at the clock and say to myself, "okay in 30 minutes he will be asleep". And then I'd just wait it out. And usually that would be the case.

...until recently.

Recently he has gotten some kind of burst of stubbornness and he just fights and fights and fights it. And oftentimes Cassandra will have fallen asleep and all of his thrashing and freaking out will start to wake her up.

And that's where I get mad.

In fact, this whole situation was making me mad. He would kick me and a burst of anger would erupt immediately. He would scream (literally, a scream) and so would I. I was just furious.

The reason for my anger? This was the only break I was going to get all day and here it was - a HUGE fight for me to get it. Every. Single. Day. and that made me mad. Super, super mad.

I found myself both dreading and wishing for naptime. I just wanted him to lay down and go the EFF to sleep so I could be left alone with a cup of green tea for a little while. I just wanted the chance to sit and BREATHE alone for a bit. I just NEEDED a break.

But the more he fought me on it, the more I fought back. The more explosive it all became.

And then I found myself ugly yelling at him one day. I literally was yelling, "GO TO SLEEP" to a little child. Have you ever had someone command you to sleep? I haven't but I can't assume that it's productive or effective.

And so I just....gave up.

I decided that it wasn't worth it. This whole battle just wasn't worth it. Even on the days when I "won" and he went to sleep I ended up feeling awful because I was so hostile about it, because it had been yet another stressful fight. Every single day was fraught with warfare, each afternoon a battle in this overall war about nap time. And we all know no one wins in war.

So I decided: no more nap time. No more. It isn't worth the argumentation and the anger. It isn't worth the fight.

And before you suggest that I put him in his room alone and "sleep train" him to nap by himself I will just put out a blanket invitation to anyone who would like to come over and do this for me. Because I have tried EVERY SINGLE METHOD on this child and nothing has worked. Some people are high needs in certain areas - Henry's is and always has been sleep. I invite anyone to come by and fix this for me but I am surely a skeptic.

No nap has meant a few things: it's meant that we no longer are arguing. I hardly ever even get mad at him anymore. Sure, he gets reprimanded for things several times a day but that's all just parenting related - no longer based in my emotions. And that's how parenting is technically "supposed" to be; you're never supposed to be punishing out of your own anger. Punishment is intended to be a tool to help cultivate learning, it is certainly not supposed to be an extension of rage.

So first, no nap has meant that there's been a significant drop in the conflict in our house. And that's been HUGE and wonderful in terms of quality of life for both Henry and myself.

It's also meant some other things:

Henry is tired.

I'm not sure if he's technically ready to drop a nap. I know he was getting there because otherwise he wouldn't have the energy to fight me so hard on it. I know some days are way worse than others. But yes, he's tired. He's tired and he's super cranky and on the brink of meltdown by about 6:45 every evening. This is okay though - bedtime is between 7:30 and 8:00 so we're okay.

And the last thing it means?

TV is on more often.

Since having Cassie, I've tried to cut back on the television watching in our house to no more than half an hour per day. That was going fine when I was still waging war against nap time. However now that Henry isn't napping, I've upped TV time to about an hour - sometimes an hour and a half if I really need it. This is because I realized that I wasn't super furious about him not sleeping - I was furious because I wasn't getting a break. And, well, the only way I can get a break around here without hearing 900 sentences per hour begin with "Mommy?" is if I put on Sesame Street or Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. I don't even feel bad about this. Why? Because I'd rather my kid learn to count to 13 than be yelled at for 45 minutes straight, that's why. And sadly those were the choices.

So we are a No Nap household and I guess for now it's working for us.

I don't love that it was at that point. I don't love that I couldn't keep my cool and find some ideal solution here. I don't love that it took three months of losing my temper for me to realize that this insanity wasn't worth it. I don't love that I need the TV on every day. But you know what? I do love Henry and I love him so much that I am not willing to yell at him and I am not willing to let myself off the hook for my own bad behavior. I love him enough to let him watch TV for an hour a day so I can give myself some semblance of sanity. It might not be ideal but it is what's working for us. And that's all we need right now: something that works.

What do you do that seems "crazy" to other parents but works for you? Share with me here.


Mary said...

As you've told me many times, Layla and Henry seem like they are kindred spirits! I think she will be very much like him as a toddler - as she already doesn't nap much. She will go down, but has never slept longer than 45 minutes and I hear all about these babies and their 2 hour naps. It's just not her style!

You're doing an awesome job and I know should I have another baby you will be the person I come to for help! I could not agree more that Henry learning to count to 13 while you get some time to yourself is an awesome solution. Because while he may be getting more TV time, all the OTHER time outside of that hour is better for him than it would be without it - you are more refreshed and engaged in the situation. It's a wonderful balance.

Layla is still small so I haven't had the chance for too much crazy commentary for others...although my quick responding to her need for comfort as a high needs baby sure irks some people!

Joanie said...

Dont worry. Rachel wouldnt nap. EVER. Rachel wanted to watch "little Bear". Sometimes she even fell asleep watching it. I needed the break and I think she needef that break from me also! Does my daughter seem well adjusted to you? :) she is awesome. So is Henry. Its not like he's parked there eating paint chips while you smoke crack. :) Its all good! Love ya.