There is very little in this world that I cherish and protect as fiercely as Naptime. Yeah. I’m capitalizing it on purpose.
I don’t mean a time when I take a nap. Hahahaha. That would be hilarious. I napped when I was pregnant and exhausted and when I was in college and thought I was exhausted but was actually nowhere near it. No, I’m talking about Naptime for my toddlers. It is precious. Do something to mess it up and I will go all Bilbo-Baggins-in-the-first-LOTR movie-when-he-sees-The-Ring-and-gets-crazy-eyes-and-werewolf-teeth on your ass.
Naptime is like a beautiful, restorative cease-fire in the battles of my day.
The cease-fire is seriously important and while it is amazing, it is not actually what I’m here to talk about today. What I really want to talk about are the intense, physically and psychologically draining battles that surround Naptime. It’s not that my kids have sleep issues. I don’t know what I did to get the sleep gods to smile upon me, but all three girls actually take decent naps and sleep well through the night. (Please, please, please do not strike me down for saying that, sleep gods. You are mighty and powerful and not to be messed with, I know.) But before and after nap, there are some serious battles going on in my house.
The before-nap battle includes getting the twins upstairs, changed, read to, and tucked in, and the part of this battle that really sucks the life out of me is the act of getting them up the stairs.
Toddlers never hustle, unless it’s away from you when you need them to do something. This, Grasshopper, is a universal truth. So, in accordance with this truth, this is what it’s like in my head while I’m walking the girls upstairs at Naptime:
- Hooray! In just a few minutes I’ll have some time by myself! Or at least some time with just the baby, who still thinks it’s cool to roll around on the floor eating her feet.
- Should I watch TV, read a book, do some writing, or tool around on the internet? Oh they all sound so glorious and fun!
- Huh. That’s weird. We don’t seem to have moved farther than the bottom step.
- I wonder if there’s a new episode of The Real Housewives of Who-Cares-Where on Hulu yet. Those bitches be CRAZY!
- Ugh. There are so many laundry-dishes-organizing-our-ridiculous-amounts-of-stuff tasks that I should work on. Oh god, I super-duper don’t want to do any of that stuff with this precious little window of time.
- Holy hell, if she’s yelling at you to stop touching her, then STOP TOUCHING HER! And keep walking. There you go.
- I’m hungry.
- Something that would make a funny blog post…blah, blah, blah.
- Ooh! I just remembered that we have chocolate in the cupboard. Score!
- Wait, we’ve only climbed four more steps??? How many stairs can there possibly be on a normal staircase??? Have I slipped into some kind of time warp?
- My tooth feels weird. Actually my whole jaw feels kind of weird. I hope I’m not getting a cavity. I really don’t want to have to deal with a cavity.
- Oh my god. I have slipped into a time warp. We will never. get. up. these. stairs.
- I’m going to die right here between the floors of my own house. They will find me here, collapsed on the seventh stair. The kids will have grown up and gone off to college somehow, but I’ll be frozen in time here, on the stairs.
- I hope my hair looks okay. You know, so that whoever it is that finds me here in my time warp isn’t all grossed out by my hair.
- FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, GET UP THE STAIRS!
- Oh, okay. We’re here. Deep breath. Now it’s just diapers and book-reading and I’m outta here. Ten more minutes, max.
And then there’s the wrestling match/hostage negotiation that is the next part of the battle. Once it’s over, I practically fly out of their room to commence the cease-fire.
So then, after I’ve eaten more cookies/chips/leftover takeout food than anyone should eat and sated my desire for ridiculous reality television, the girls wake up. And by “girls,” I really just mean one girl: Captain Chaos. She wakes up first every. single. time. But then of course, poor Enforcer is dragged from her peaceful slumber by the banshee howls of desperation coming from the neighboring crib. And then, as if she senses sisterly shenanigans in the offing, The Baby joins in, voicing her demand for attention as well.
I chug that day’s cup #11 of coffee and ready myself for the after-nap battle. I lace up my combat boots and pull down my face shield because I am now the expert they call in to defuse bombs.
From her screaming, which has probably only been going on for 7 or 8 minutes at the most by the time I get to her, you would think that something was seriously wrong with Chaos. She often repeats the mantra, “Mommy COME BACK” in tones that range from plaintive to crazy-loud, and she starts in on it immediately upon waking. It must kind of suck to wake up like that. To go from blissfully asleep to HOLYSHITTHEWORLDISENDING awake with no time in between. I try to make her life as pleasant and non-terrifying as possible, so I’m not sure why this is her go-to attitude when she wakes up.
Anyway, using my best Mary Poppins voice, I fling open their door and wade through the pile of tears and snot by Chaos’ crib with every intention of swiftly and cheerfully bringing the emotional temperature of the room back down to something resembling reasonable. Sometimes it works and my suggestions of play dough/finger paint/doll picnics get them jazzed up enough to actually get downstairs without much fuss.
Other times, with The Baby wailing in the background, I am met with two small people bent on battle. They don’t want to have snack. They don’t want to read books. They don’t even want to watch their favorite fuzzy little red lunatic, Elmo.
And everything sucks.
I have to carry them downstairs one at a time instead of walking all together. I have to feel guilty about the fact that The Baby is crying while I’m making deals with tiny dictators who have serious bedhead. I feel guilty that Captain Chaos wakes up crying every day. I feel guilty that The Enforcer doesn’t get as much sleep as she needs because Captain Chaos wakes up crying every day. I feel guilty for using the mystical power of Elmo to lure my children out of bed. I feel guilty that one of them is crying as I carry the other one downstairs, and guilty that the other one is crying when I leave her downstairs to go back to get her sister.
And this battle that I wage against myself, the battle of feeling guilty about everything vs. knowing in my heart that I’m doing the best I can, is tougher by far than the before and after nap battles. It is on-going. It is always being waged in my head and I don’t know how to make it stop.
But I do know this: watching too-tan, too-rich, too-much-makeup-wearing “housewives” whose problems usually look a whole lot worse than mine lose their shit on TV helps. So does coffee. And wine. And friends and family. These are my sisters-and-brothers-in-arms in the battle that never ends, and as long as I remember that, there just might be the smidgen of a chance that we’re winning.