Who doesn’t like a short afternoon siesta? Especially after downing a meal, when the eyes start getting heavy, and avert the computer screen no matter how you force them to get back to work, lying down on that coach for a quick wink seems to be so tempting isn’t it?
Well, the small bundles of energy do not always think so. They are happy to be prancing about the whole house, littering every nook with a toy and corner with a crayon, if they suddenly not decide that its time for them to hit the playground.
Right from his time of birth, my son has sincerely stuck to his afternoon nap. Before he started going to school, we would make it a point to feed him lunch by noon, for no matter how late he got up, he would start dozing again by 1. There of course were days when he would drag on till 3 or 4, but no matter what, he would eventually fall asleep. Once he started going to school, his afternoon nap became a much more easy affair for me, for he would literally hit the bed as soon as he returned in the afternoon (his timings then were 11.30 to 1.30).
Seeing that his noon nap has been constant in his daily schedule, I set about making him sleep in the afternoon, everyday. However, I have been seeing a shift in tendencies lately. He keeps playing and does not want to close his eyes, even though they start looking blood-shot or yawns hijack his entire being. No amount of stories, or lullabies, or even rocking helps. The eyes would begin to droop little by little, and then just when we think he is done, he would smile and start playing again. So the whole day goes without a wink of sleep, and as evening approaches, sleep invades him like a silent army. On such days I usually feed him his dinner early, and he is happily snoring by 8 or 9.
Last week, on one of his no-nap days, I encountered a mommy in the park, and she got started on me as to why I should make the little guy sleep no matter what, in the afternoons. I had told her that since he had been awake the whole day, I would feed him early and put him to bed by 8. That was met with her disapproval, for she thought I was doing this to get some free time for myself, and I shouldn’t be so selfish to let my child sleep so early and through the night, thereby going hungry for more than 10 hrs. Needless to say, I did not like her judging me and so I excused myself out of the conversation and came off.
Like what DiCaprio says in Inception, an idea is like a seed. You just have to plant the seed in your mind, even in the most innocuous way, and it grows into a full-grown belief. The idea this lady had planted into my mind continued to rankle me long after that conversation. Was I doing something wrong?
When the next time S skipped his noon nap, I observed him closely. He didn’t seem to be tired or cranky. In fact, he resisted me putting him to sleep and told me, very firmly, that he did not want to sleep (oh yes, 3-year-olds can be quite firm on the decisions they make). And when he did sleep early after an early dinner, he always got up the next morning early and fresh, with plenty of time to get ready for school (of course, discounting the occasion when he got up too early, and then went back to bed right when it was time to go). So I do not believe that can be wrong.
Many parenting websites say children drop their afternoon naps as they reach the age of 3 or 4. Some may leave the habit early or some late, but they all do, eventually. So if kiddo is happy playing, and not cranky, and feeling energetic, what is the point in struggling with him to make him sleep? I do not buy the argument that he is going hungry for too long in the night and that is bad for him, and though napping on time to not upset the rest of the schedule might seem to be a good idea, no point in trying to bring on something that doesn’t want to come! So on days when the sleep is foregone, there is always some quiet time for both of us, and after 30 mins or so, he gets up and goes on, happy in his world of cars and scooters. And I surely am not complaining.
So dear parents, what are your views on afternoon naps?
Yamini is a software professional turned work-at-home-mom. Amidst her domestic responsibilities and a very demanding 2.5 year old son, she snatches time to write academic papers, freelance content, fiction and poetry. Her stories and poetry have been published in various online literary magazines and anthologies by Penguin Books and Cyberwit Publications. Yamini voices her thoughts now and then at http://myexpressionsandme.