Chicago mom explains the benefits of the afternoon nap

Dear Toddlers of America (or at least Toddlers of My House),

Nap time is awesome. Naps are necessary. Don’t fight falling asleep at nap time – instead, just go ahead and embrace the wonderment that is daytime sleeping. Take a daily nap for as long as you possibly can. There’s no full day school until first grade, so keep on napping right through those kindergarten years if you can. Napping is amazing. Every adult you know would kill to have the luxury of a daytime nap. The joy of napping is truly wasted on the very young.

There’s a lot of things you should know about nap time. The benefits of napping are not just for you. They are for your parents, too. I need you to take a daily, 90 to 120 minute nap. I cannot stress the word “need” enough in this statement.

There are things that I can only do during nap time when you are not underfoot and making demands. I can’t get household chores done while you’re awake; it’s a losing battle. I can’t go upstairs and leave two small children alone while I get online to pay bills or check emails or Google “Why won’t my two-year-old nap?” I will inevitably be interrupted by screaming and a mystery to solve. Who bit who first? Which bite mark looks fresher? And who spilled milk all over the couch? I was only upstairs for 36 seconds!

So, there’s the household work I need to get done, but nap time is so much more than Mommy’s Get Stuff Done time. Nap time is broken into two distinct segments. There’s the nap itself, which is mentally restorative for all involved – you, me, and the neighbors who don’t have to hear me yelling about bite marks and spilled milk. But then there’s all that time before the nap – the PROMISE of the nap. All that deep breathing I start doing around eleven o’clock when it feels like my house can’t possibly get any more torn apart by a feisty, whirlwind of a two-year-old? That deep breathing is me doing my own meditations. Only two hours until nap time. Only two hours until nap time. You can get through this. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Only one hour, 59 minutes until nap time.

Of course, I love and cherish every waking moment we have together. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t equally cherish (okay, and some days more than equally) those non-waking hours together. The afternoon nap. The time I get to do things alone. Use the computer. Go to the bathroom. Sop up a puddle of apple juice from earlier. It’s the little things that make me happy and help me refocus.

Nap time is an exchanging of gifts. I will let you sleep and refuel so that you can play just as hard in those late afternoon hours as you do in the morning. And, in return, you will give me that time to savor alone. But that’s not all. I will then give you one more gift, thus tilting the scale even more in your favor. I will bestow upon you the gift of a fabulous mother who’s as patient and loving and willing to play Batman as long as humanly possible. Because the more you nap, the more I’m able to recharge for all those other minutes in the day.

I really just need that down time after lunch, okay? So please keep napping for as long as you can. Close your eyes. Just close your damn eyes.

Yours always,

Thinking sleep-inducing thoughts,

With love,

Your mother

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