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Saturday, May 28, 2022

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The Futility of the Nap Ride

How many miles have I driven going nowhere? Fifty? A hundred? It’s more than I want to admit. And why do I do it? Why do I drive to nowhere? To get a tiny human to fall asleep. It’s 12:30 p.m. The sun is shining and the birds are singing. But my heart holds only darkness because I know it is my daughter’s naptime and I know I have taken the easy way out. The way of cowards. Cowards like me.

For a good while, we could get our oldest child Benny to nap in his bed. Then around 2 years old, it started getting harder to get him to nap. We tried lots of different stuff. Soft music, dimming the lights, reading him a story. Originally, taking him on a car ride was what I called the  “nuclear option”—guaranteed to get the kill, but at what cost? But pretty soon, it became the only option. For more than a whole year, every single day when Benny wasn’t at daycare I would take him out in the car and drive him around until, if I was lucky, he would fall asleep.

I gave up. Yes, it’s true. I had admitted defeat and my wife joined me. This tiny adorable miscreant had bested us.

Now for the last few months, it’s been almost-2-year-old Lily’s turn to drive me down this path of darkness. We used to be able to put her down in the crib, where she would putter around for ten minutes then conk out. But ever since we switched her to a toddler bed because of her crib-escaping gymnastics, there has just been too much cool stuff in her room for her to settle down. Stuff to look at, stuff to play with, stuff to pull out of drawers and scatter all over the floor. We tried for weeks to put her down for naps in her room. But it just didn’t work. So now I’m back in the same familiar madness of having to drive.

They would nap at daycare. Even now, with Benny almost 5 years old, he’ll still nap at preschool sometimes. The power of peer pressure is very strong indeed. But the flip side of that coin is where we live with nap time at home. There are no other kids around whose example they can follow. It’s just them and their over-energetic nonsense. And they WILL. NOT. NAP.

I think of all the ancient dinosaurs that had to die and get compressed into oil over millions of years. I think of all the effort it took to slurp them out of the ground and refine them into gasoline and get them into my car. I think of all that while driving my car full of smushed-up dinosaurs going NOWHERE and listening to SILENCE because I’m trying to get a toddler to SLEEP. Every minute creeps by like an eternity. During a nap ride, more than any other time in my day, I feel my seconds slipping inevitably forward towards the chilly embrace of death.

My go-to route is Fall Hill Avenue. There are long smooth stretches of road and only a few traffic lights. Too much stopping and going interrupt the sleep-inducing rhythms of the car ride. On a good day, the mile from home to Wegman’s and back is enough to conk Lily out. But sometimes when she’s especially recalcitrant, I have to drive all the way to Route 3 and back a couple of times. And still, when I lean over to check her in her car seat, she’ll look right back at me with a gleam in those oh-so-awake eyes. I’ll sometimes take a trip down River Road, which is really nice because there are no stoplights to interrupt the soothing swooping twists and turns.

Once I get home, it’s a whole other story. I know lots of parents have lots of trouble getting their kids to transfer from the car to their bed. We got lucky with Benny; you could probably drop him and he wouldn’t wake up. Lily is harder. I can usually do pretty well if I time it so I get home just a few minutes after she first starts snoozing. That way she’s so sleepy that the jostling of getting her out of her car seat isn’t enough to wake her. Still, I’ve had many times where she has popped right awake the second that I touch her. I feel like I’m on the bomb squad, sweating bullets as I carry the delicate package and praying it doesn’t blow up in my face. Sometimes she’ll perk right up, and that makes the whole endeavor that much more frustrating. Because once she has even a few minutes asleep, that’s it for the day. She will not go back down no matter how much I drive her around.

But in all seriousness, kids this age need naps. They need them or they turn into cranky hell beasts whose only goal is to spread chaos and misery. As a parent, you need to do what it takes to keep your life sane and your kids healthy. If that means burning some gas going nowhere, then that’s what you need to do. No shame. So good luck to you in all your napping endeavors. I got Lily asleep today, so I’m doing pretty good.

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