Friday, January 29, 2016

mama confessions : why giving up naps was a beautiful thing.

It is funny how sometimes the things we fear most end up being the best things for us.

I think it is the natural human fear of change.  This can be in routine, job, letting go of unhealthy relationships, etc.  Even if we know it might be the best thing for us, we still drag our feet and try to think of reasons to keep it (whatever it is) hanging around.

This is how I was with naps, certainly.

I dreaded the day my kids stopped napping.  I heard mama friends say their kid stopped napping at two (or never napped) and I would inwardly cry for them.

Surely my children would nap until they were at least five!  How else would I survive?  Cormac has never given me too much trouble, and he is 4.5.  Sometimes he'd grumble about his nap, but he is my "rule follower" and it was pretty easy to convince him every day that nap time was non-negotiable.  And he would sleep!  Even at four, he would sleep 1 - 2 hours most days.

Finola, my lover of sleep, is surprisingly the one that started giving me signs that the nap was no longer necessary.  I wrote in this post about the struggle that started a couple months ago.  The resisting sleep.  The endlessly getting out of her bed.  At nap time she would FINALLY settle down around 2pm, then sleep forever.  I'd have to wake her up at 4pm, which I wasn't super motivated to do because I was so stressed out from the hour it took to get her to stay in her bed.  Then at 8 o'clock she was not tired - at all.  She would fight going to bed for about two hours.  I didn't feel like I could relax at all.  Hubby and I would take turns putting her back in bed.  We tried all methods.  It was not fun, for either of us.

Sometimes these things are phases with kids - the sleep issues.  They last a week or so, then you go back to normalcy.  This behavior, however, was lasting months.  I was growing increasingly unhappy and cranky.  I was snapping at the kids and Hubby more.  I felt like each day was a struggle.

I'd lost my happiness as a mama.  I knew something had to change.

One evening, after a particularly rough day, I pretty much broke down at dinner.  The kids and I were at the table, finishing our meal, and I laid my head down on the table and wept.  My kids are pretty sensitive, so immediately Finola was patting my back and asking, "What's wrong, Mama?" in a patient, soothing voice.

"Mama's just tired, love."  I was so tired.  Tired of being cranky.  Where was the happy, content mama I formerly was?  I was beginning to think she was gone for good.

Our meal was done, so I asked Cormac to lead us in prayer.  Normally we do one of our typical meal prayers or songs, but that night I made a special request, ya know, since I was clearly having a breakdown. "Can you pray for me, Cormac?  Mama needs prayers."

So he did.  "Dear Lord, Please be with my mom.  Help her to be happy, and to like her life. We love you, Lord.  Amen."

Yes, he prayed those words.  Of course, this evoked more tears from me.  I was moved...and felt some relief.

The very next day, not coincidentally, an idea randomly popped into my head.  No more naps.  

I don't know why I didn't consider this option before...but there it was.  This was the solution to my problem.  Maybe.

So that day I announced, "No naps today!" which was met by hurrahs and fanfare!  (At least from Cormac.  Finola seemed unimpressed.)

Instead of rushing home after Cormac's pre-school for lunch, a tiny bit of playtime, and then the dreaded nap time routine (ie hellish struggle) we drove to of our favorite outings.   Because I knew we didn't have to get home for naps, I did not rush anything.  We were on no schedule -- for the first time EVER.

I felt like a weight was lifted.  Cormac got to play in the "big kid" play area there, which he loves.  Finola and I strolled leisurely through the showroom.  She jumped on every bed and chair she could find.  I took photos of stuff I liked.  We tried out all the toys in the kiddo area.  We had lunch and the kids played some more after eating.  There was no nagging from me to "Finish up!  We gotta get home for naps!"

With no schedule to keep, I was just plain happier.  It was the oddest thing.

Now, keep in mind, some kids still NEED to nap.  I could not have made this change even six months ago.  I was a bit worried they would have meltdowns due to tiredness or fall asleep in the car on the 40 minute drive home.  But nope, they were fine.

We got home at around 3pm and I thought, "What now?"

So we did "quiet time" and snuggled on the couch and watched a Tinkerbell movie.  Well, they watched, I dozed.  I was pooped.

After that we played a while in their rooms before starting dinner.   Following dinner it was bath time, and then, miraculously, bed time!  (I decided to shoot for an earlier bedtime - seven - since we were skipping naps.)

Hubby put Cormac to bed (always pretty easy) and I did Finola...

...who, for the first time in almost two months, fell asleep within minutes.  Hallelujah!

It all felt very low-key and lovely, like my parenting days of yore, and for the first day in almost two months I enjoyed being a mother again.  I shed a few happy tears that Cormac's prayer was answered so quickly and beautifully.

It's been several weeks and I've stuck with "no naps" and not looked back.  We can go on longer adventures in the afternoons and I am way more relaxed now that my head is wrapped around the new routine.  I feel like I have more time to enjoy my children, instead of fighting them about everything.

Now, let's be real : not every day has been perfect.  Cormac has had a few late afternoon meltdowns that I maybe can attribute to lack of napping.  I've had less time to get things done, since I no longer have those two hours to myself in the afternoon.   Less cleaning, less writing, less personal space.  I thought that would be a really hard adjustment.  But it hasn't been.  I just am forced to be more creative with getting things done...and I think that is a positive thing for me.  I waste less time.  I value the time I do have even more.  Against all odds I feel like I actually have MORE time.
quiet time = snuggle time with a tired mama
This is all I know for sure : 

We have an awesome and loving God.  Who loves us at our hardest times. When we doubt ourselves.  When we want to give up and run away from what we feel called to do.

For anyone, motherhood can be hard - but don't ever doubt the power of an earnest prayer.   

Especially that of a child.
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Have a lovely weekend, everyone!  (Naps...or not.)