Sonny has given up his afternoon naps altogether. Well, left to his own devices, he would have done that a year ago, but I insisted on a nap until very recently.
We have stuck to the afternoon nap routine ever since he was a toddler and I was not ready to let it go just yet. As far as I could see, this was very important because:
- It helped him relax after a hectic day at preschool.
- He woke up refreshed and full of energy in the evening to play and read.
- He could stay up late (until 9:45 – 10:00 pm) and have a solid chunk of play time with hubby whose hectic work schedule and long commute otherwise made it very difficult for him to spend quality time with sonny except for weekends (Mornings are always busy, so there is not really time to fit in play then).
- And last, but not the least, I needed the downtime myself to recharge my batteries (after all sonny’s sleep times are my only quiet “thinking” times!
So, I insisted on a nap, no matter how reluctant sonny was. And it was fine until a couple of days ago when I realized I was spending more time and energy trying to get him to sleep than the actual time he spent sleeping. Perhaps, it was this or all the recent upheavals in our lives or the fact that I had been under the weather these last few days…I don’t know. But yesterday, I just stopped. I did not retaliate when sonny launched his typical protest slogan: “I, not sleep. I, not sleep. I, not go to bed…“.
I surrendered and I just let him be.
But like everything else in life, it was a conditional truce. I told him he could continue doing whatever he wanted to do as long as he stayed in the room, did not disturb me and played on his own. Of course, preschoolers don’t really understand “DO NOT DISTURB ME” per se, so for some time, he insisted on me joining his car game, but I remained firm…telling him that I could not join him today as I was tired and unwell and so, needed to rest. Then when everything else failed, I just pretended to fall asleep. After a brief 5-10 minutes more of “Ma, come, let’s play. Wake up. It’s wake up time! It’s good morning time!“, sonny finally gave up and decided to move on.
And these are the 10 things that happened when I stopped “entertaining” my kid deliberately for those brief afternoon hours. [Note: Of course, I did not get any quiet time (Every mother knows that “silence is suspicious” when it comes to our kids….so you gotta keep your eyes and ears open at all times for dubious silence!). But the mere fact that I was left alone and not disturbed for a few hours was enough to rejuvenate me for the evening.] Anyway, here goes the list:
- He painted the town red…literally: Red is his favorite color, so yes, he went wild with his “I draw” initiative targeted at the walls, at his drawing book and his toys. He made huge circles on the walls and dubbed them planets and Ferris Wheels, drew triangles and rectangles and dubbed them rockets and some random dots and streaks (comets). Of course, for planets, only Mars got the red color, rest were painted as per their designated hues. I remained magnanimous, letting sonny’s imagination sprout wings because we are in the midst of a renovation and his rooms’ walls are yet to be repainted 😉 . So it was not really a big deal, right? So yeah, he painted and painted. And he painted some more on his legs “Hulk”-ing himself green 🙂
- He practiced writing on the walls: After painting came the letters. Mama As and baby As, and big Bs and little bs and Cs adorned the walls in some exquisite pattern, apparent only to him. He joined all of them together with one long line because “These are all friends holding hands“. And then he wrote some “friendly” numbers too!
- He played make-believe: Lots and lots of scenarios! He was a firefighter (pronounced “fider-fider“) and rescued a puppy with the help of “paw patrol” and Rider (“Rider needs us!”). Then he was the doctor who bandaged the rescued pup. Then some of his cars needed rescuing too because they began sinking in a make-believe river (“Help, help, I sinking. Too much water, pull me out!“). But when sonny himself needed rescuing from the river, no one came…not even Ma! So he rescued himself. (“I do it, all myself!“).
- He talked to himself and his imaginary friends: About school, about his real friends at school, about how to say sorry after making a mistake, about how to follow rules (Captain Barnacles: “Aye, aye, captain“) and so on and on. He pretended to be his preschool teacher and taught a make-believe class of assorted cartoon characters from his favorite TV shows.
- He listened to songs and did a song and dance routine: He asked me to play songs on my laptop. I obliged and put on a playlist of nursery rhymes and other kid-friendly songs before promptly laying down on the bed again and pretending to sleep 😉 He listened to the songs, hummed along and occasionally burst into a jig. He walked round and round the room picking random toys strewn on the floor and dancing with them from time to time.
- He watched his pet fish and the neighbor’s dog: He got bored and went to the living room (violating the truce conditions 😉 , but who cares?). The TV was not on (of course!) so finding nothing better to do, he started watching the pet fish swimming in the aquarium. He occasionally mimicked their pouting faces and then tried to swim like them on the floor for about 10 minutes. Then he got bored and went up to the window to look outside. Down below, on the ground floor, the neighbor’s pet dog was relaxing in their backyard. So sonny barked at the dog, who return-barked from time to time. Sonny then proceeded to copy the dog moves for another 10 minutes. Then he was bored again and decided to come back to his room.
- He pretend-read books: He turned pages of his favorite books (Cinderella, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The little Chicken, The Magic Porridge Pot, Jack and the Beanstalk etc.) and “read” them (from memory) talking to himself about what happened next and trying to mimic the voice of the characters as best as he could (Scary growl “I eat you up!” Tiny Begging voice “Please don’t eat me, I, too small!“). He also read his favorite books on planets and meteors and dinosaurs.
- He became more independent: He realized he was his own master now and Ma will not intuitively attend to his needs….at least for some time that is. So he became independent. When he got thirsty, he pulled out his water bottle from his school bag and drank from it. When the water was finished, then only he asked me to fill it up (“It’s empty. Fill it up, please!“). When he needed to go to the bathroom, he pulled up his shirt, opened his underpants and then only asked me to take him to the bathroom. When he got hungry, he asked me for cookies (Nah! I wish! He is never hungry, so this did not happen!). In all, for those brief few hours, he attended to almost all of his needs without bugging me unnecessarily.
- He exercised: Perhaps because he was bored big time or because he learned a new move at school, I don’t know, but he decided to exercise – Some aerobics and some yoga pose. And tons of hopping, jumping and froggy-jumps! It was fun watching him through the corner of my eyes breaking into those funny poses 🙂
- He lay down on the bed and relaxed: Finally, he was tired. Not exhausted enough to sleep, but tired enough to want to lay down in bed by my side, listening to his songs, holding a few Hotwheels in his hands and just staring at the walls. Tired enough to want to relax and appreciate the power of “quiet time” for 15 minutes.
So what did I learn from this whole “not entertaining” gig? Just this:
- I don’t need to kill myself trying to make every second of sonny’s waking hours productively.
- Boredom is not a curse, it’s a blessing. Children need to get bored. In fact, everyone needs to get bored:
- To get in touch with their inner selves
- To learn the value of alone time
- To hone their creativity
- To learn patience
- To find something else to do in the meantime
- Naps are overrated. Downtime is needed, yes, of course. But it can be achieved without a forced nap. Quiet time is as relaxing as an afternoon nap for preschoolers (when they are ready to graduate to it, that is).
- Most importantly, it is better to trust the kids to know their own sleep cues. Sonny did not need a nap and he knew it. Contrary to my fears, he was not sluggish in the evenings. He was as active as always. Of course, sonny’s bedtime did shift from 10:00 pm to 8:45 pm due to this, but unlike other days, he did not protest when bedtime came. He was tired as hell and promptly fell asleep at 8:45. And he slept like a log till his usual wake up time.
So, there you have it. My estrangement with sonny’s afternoon nap and its after-effects.
My question to you is: Are your kids ready to give up on their afternoon naps yet? More importantly, are you ready to not “entertain” them for a few hours every day?