Monday, October 31, 2011

Saving the Afternoon Nap..

What an odd few days it has been..
We've been slammed by a snowstorm, leaving most of our town without power for the past 2 days. We were among the lucky ones, only losing heat for about 5 hours. Most people I know are still without, and it looks like much of our area won't be up and running for another few days.
While staying warm, I've been dealing with W's new resistance to his afternoon nap, which is always at 1:30. I have a few friends with children of similar ages who have expressed that their children are also "dropping" the much needed afternoon nap.
Sigh...where to start?
My boy is incredibly active and so very excitable. If he's sitting still, I know he's getting sick. I've been nursing him in our bedroom rocking chair, wrapped in his silk rainbow blankie, for the longest time now. He usually decides when he is ready to move to the bed, and I follow, laying with him and nursing until he falls asleep. We are a co-sleeping family. This is how we've always "done" sleep. Some may believe that by doing this, we are not letting W discover sleep on his own...I understand and I somewhat agree (?). We're working towards independence in this area, slowly but surely. Just 3 months ago, W started falling asleep with Jay, thus removing me as the "only person who could get W to sleep." I think this is a big step. And he made it himself, in his time. The issue of sleep is much talked about in parenting circles, friends, grandparents,'s shaky ground for most people... "What, you let them cry it out?" " How awful!" "You let your child sleep in your bed?" "Well, that's just not how it should be done." Everyone's got an opinion, but no one has the right answer for every situation. We all do what is best for our family and our children.
Nap is usually somewhat smooth sailing around here. During playschool, we "wind down" for a good 30 minutes and every child falls asleep for at least 90 minutes. Yet this past week, I'm upstairs struggling with my 26 month old while 4 year old children are completely passed out downstairs.

time.. to.. wind ..down...

I become frustrated. I try everything. I lay in bed, pretending to be asleep as he runs all over the bedroom, plays in the closet, jumps on the bed....I keep him in a hug next to me as he squirms free a few seconds later. I try the rocking chair again..and again. I sing softly. I hum. I walk outside the door and listen to him scream hysterically for 2 minutes. I'm thinking of the dishes in the sink downstairs...the floor that needs sweeping...the things which must be gathered before the playschool children are picked up...I think about the hour to myself and I want it. I don't think this is selfish, either. Mama's need a break in the day; it's awesome, but tough work.
"Lay down", I say in a resolute voice, but devoid of emotion, so I think. "We put our heads on the pillow", in the same tone. It doesn't work, and no wonder. Underneath everything, I am ready to scream. How in the world could this undertone lull an overtired child to sleep?? Like so much of what we do, the change has to start with us. We need to look at ourselves first and foremost.

...The children didn't seem to be excited about morning circle today? What could I have done differently? What emotion and energy did I bring to the circle? Was I excited about the content? Was it well planned?

W seems clingy all day long...What is not being provided? Were we too busy this week? Am I preoccupied with something?

W is going through a phase of refusal to eat.  What is he hungry for, if not food? What is he missing right now?

A playschool child is grumpy and quick to anger today...what can I subtly offer to him/her? A reassuring hug and extra time to tuck in during rest time? A space next to me during snack preparation? The job of candle snuffer today? Extra attention for positive behaviors?

Sometimes I need to really take a step back and look at things from another angle. This is hard to do when frustrated. It took W 2 hours to fall alseep yesterday afternoon, a new "record" here. I see his excitement and energy during the day and I know that he needs this time. I'm not ready for this rest to be lost.
I wasn't looking forward to 1:30 this afternoon. Of course, it rolled around, as it always does and will, and upstairs we went. We practiced tucking his "baby" inside of a silk and laying it down. Into the rocking chair we went. I caught a glimpse of myself in the full length mirror on the other side of the room, and I consciously smiled. I started humming a song which I had made up during Monday Morning Garden earlier today, and I thought it sounded soothing and soft. W hopped off my lap about 5 minutes later, and I tucked myself into bed. He ran about the room, sliding himself belly down on the floor for a bit....jumping off a bench a few times...opening and closing the closet doors...took his shirt off...all while snuggling up to me a few times to nurse in between. His eyes grew heavy. I didn't react to anything. After 30 minutes, I checked to see if his diaper was wet. I changed him, put his shirt back on, and went back to the rocking chair with him. Humming softly again, I thought of how giving into sleep must be hard for such an active little body. When a child falls asleep, it's almost as if they need to be ok with leaving us for a little while, and this clearly isn't always easy....especially when you are discovering new things every day; new things that now have a word, new things to do with your tiny earthly body...

Watching your child give in to sleep is a beautiful sight.  I love to watch his eyes lower...then drop. His breathing becomes deep and rhythmical. He feels heavy in my lap. There is something about the sight of a sleeping child that brings about a feeling of intense love and peace. Especially this past week ;)
I believe that today was easier for both of us because of the attitude I brought to the space for sleep. I didn't react, I didn't really say anything. By laying there, I feel like I sort of modeled what I wanted him to do. He wasn't getting any attention, negative or positive. I kind of "checked myself out", trusting that sleep would come to him when the time was right.
I've got a lot to learn. I'm trying my hardest.

I'm reading a great book which details a bit about the connection between a child and their guardian angel during the time of sleep. I am just beginning to understand perhaps a small amount of this,  but I do know that I have often found myself asking W's angel for guidance. It is an intention I set forth; a call for help.
The realization that we as human beings continue the work of the angels can fill us with awe and inspire a feeling of gratitude. I've been given a child into my keeping...not only my own biological child, but the 7 other children I care for, as well. Gratitude would be an understatement.

I was also loaned a copy of Working with Anxious, Nervous and Depressed Children, which has thus far been fantastic. I don't consider my 26 month old nervous, depressed, or anxious, but I feel like I am gleaning so much about tolerance and the senses.

It's 4:15 and W has been sleeping for over 2 hours. I hope that his body is getting the rest it needs and that his sleep is peaceful. Peace. Yes, I feel that it's just as important as sleep. I can't make him sleep...but I can offer a space free of frustration. It's up to me.
And I'm up for it.


  1. Ah yes, a topic that has so many opinions but you are correct, there is no right or wrong way to help a child to sleep. My son decided at 18 months that he was done with naps and he was right, his body was ready.
    I'm sure you have considered this already but do you think that W wants to be downstairs with the other children for nap time? I would think that he would rather have alone time with Mama but maybe he's curious and wants to try being a part of what the "big kids" do?
    You will get through this, keep up the good work!
    ~ joey ~

  2. Oh parenting can be so challenging!
    My first born wasn't a sleeper, 1 yr old he gave up the day sleep, and now he is 11 he is still someone who doesn't need much sleep! (he is a very active child also)

    They other thing I would like to mention is that the don't just all of a sudden not need a sleep anymore, there is often a transition period, a sleep one day then not for a couple or something like that.

    No children are the same, need the same or do the same.

    Perhaps take your cues from W, the same way you manage other areas of his life.

    :) Jacq

    P.S I would say all mothers lament the loss of the nap LOL

  3. Dear Rebecca,
    Oh how this post resonates with me! I find time and time again, the attitude you take with you to put little one to sleep so affects how things got. The more hurried I feel while nursing my littles down, thinking of all I need to be doing, of my other 3 children who are in their rooms playing/reading, the more anxious I am for him to drop off to sleep, the longer it takes. He can totally sense my emotions during this time- and it was the same for all my others. It can be difficult sometimes to find that peaceful place though when it is time to put baby down, when you've got so much going on. But I try and remember each time.
    You are so right in what you say about a sleeping baby- and it is true with all children, even my big girl who is 10. Their faces are so relaxed and peaceful, and I can see their baby selves again.
    Thankyou for sharing your experience! <3 Melanie

  4. Sometimes they just have too much to share in their little mind, that it doesn't let them relax and go to sleep, maybe if you try to talk to him and ask him more about his day (I know he is still very young and he may have limitated vocabulary but maybe a yes or no..for answe will help the to share with us those thoughts). I read this from the book Simplicity parenting. it is a great resource.

    And also the weather is changing and our children are not burning as much calories as in summer time, sometimes their body is not enough tired to get some rest. I will kindly suggest you to do some more yoga and excercise.

  5. Beautiful post. I love your searching and questions. You're so open and honest and answers will come in that space of clarity. My little one about the same age as yours is also fighting naps. I confess I get frustrated and have sort of given up. This is a great reminder to keep our rest & peace first and foremost.


  6. Just want to say that, yes, my most successful tactic, by far, was to practice silence (very difficult at times) and model what I wanted, just like you said.

  7. patience. what a virtue. and, what a gift for our children to teach us it day after day. sometimes, i think i must really be lacking it b/c it's a day FULL of them teaching me! you are awesome; i so appreciate this sharing with you.

  8. Hi Rebecca!
    I had to share this with you! I was just talking to my MIL who was a Waldorf teacher and she said the time between Michaelmas and Hallowe'en was always a time of unrest in the classroom. She said that after Hallowe'en the children returned to their normal calm selves.
    I'm interested to know if you find this too?!
    ~joey ~

  9. Beautiful post. We are stuggling with night-time sleep right now following a new baby and a big move. Our three-year-old is really out of his sleep rhythm in a major way! Thanks for this bit of inspiration.

  10. It is so difficult when things you thought you could count on change! With our 3 1/2 year old it seems we are still in the transition out of the afternoon nap (after more than a year of thinking we had "given it up") - some days she does, some days she doesn't. If only I could KNOW in advance, it would be so much easier to handle!

    Also, perhaps taking some of the emphasis off of yourself and how you respond might help. Sometimes children just need to work through their own process and his might simply be a time of disequilibrium now... something he needs to go through and not as dependent on what you do/don't do as you may think.

    If anyone can weather the storm gracefully, we your faithful readers, are sure it is you! :)

  11. I hear you on this one. Noah and W sound very similar in the activity. Noah is busy all the time, high energy, never stopping, except to sit with me and read books. If he's not reading with me he's getting into something, acting wild. However, he is a good sleeper taking 3-4 hour nap every day. Each child is so different. I remember Cami only took short naps and I'd be thrilled if she slept for 2 hours, worried if she slept 3. She was so laid back though, just coloring and playing with her dollies that I really didn't "need" that mama time that I do with Noah. Sounds like you need a bit of that down time. Its true, everyone has their own opinion on what you should do or the way they were raised, but YOU know your kid best. For me personally, what got both kids to sleep better was starting their bedtime routine way earlier. They ended up sleeping in later and I am able to wake up and have my coffee or maybe workout before they get up. Sending hugs your way!

  12. So beautifully written. Definitely a post I'll have to return and savor some more.

    Thanks for posting links to fabulous stores like the flowering child and wool baby, etc. I'm new to Waldorf baby (4 months old at home) so learning a lot from you. Thanks again!!


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