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Transitioning Out Of Nap Time

I know, I know, Maddie’s older than
most kids who still take a nap, so I should be grateful we’ve
had such a great run. But I can see her outgrowing it, and
I’m going to give up that “me” time in the
afternoon only by kicking and screaming.

After all, it’s only been a few short months that I’ve
had both girls reliably napping at the same time every day, and I
cherish that hour or so which I can use to start dinner, pay bills,
or on rare occasions simply sit and stare at the forbidden
television. I count on that time as my sanity saver, and need a
mental break from both girls for at least a few precious minutes a
day. Which is why I took a page from my girlfriend Abby’s
playbook, and began segueing into “quiet time”.

For a few months now, Maddie’s
occasionally skipped her nap; she’ll lie down and simply be
unable to go to sleep. Fortunately, those days are few and far
between – at first, only once every month or so – and
even more fortunately, Maddie’s generally a docile kid and
will lie in bed singing
“Mooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyy!” quietly until I
come get her; it simply doesn’t occur to her to get up and
leave the room on her own. I quickly laid ground rules for these
occasions, and we’ve been working on getting them into a

First off, Maddie now brings about a dozen books into her bed with
her. If she’s having trouble going to sleep, she’ll
“read” the books to herself, quietly flipping the
pages. Oftentimes this will tire her enough so she’ll conk
out, but if that doesn’t work she moves on to role-playing
with the myriad stuffed animals in her bed. I’ll hear her
acting out elaborate stories with her Madeline Doll, Dancing Dolly,
and Panda Bear, and half wish I was in there to see the scene live.
Sometimes she’ll combine the two activities, and read her
books to her stuffed animals.

If this fails to put her to sleep, Maddie is allowed to get up,
turn on her small light, and play quietly in her room. She knows
she needs to lie in bed and try to sleep for three songs on her
night-night cd before turning on the light, but after that
she’s allowed to get out her animals or play with her doll
house or whatever, as long as it’s fairly quiet. And she
should stay playing quietly until I come to get her.

We’d never really put this completely to the test until
yesterday; she’d often declare herself unable to sleep, but
pass the “quiet time” singing to herself in bed. Once
she actually got up and came and found me, and we talked about
quiet time and what it’s for (other than Mommy’s
sanity!). I explained that every kid needs some down time to rest
up for the rest of the day, and she can come out raring to go after
she’s had some time to herself. A few times she’s
called me in and begged me to allow her to get up and I could see
we were heading towards a meltdown if I made her stay there, so
I’d snuggle with her for two night-night songs before
allowing her up.

There is a method to my madness in all this; I’m not just
selfishly trying to get “me” time out of her. As she
moves away from a daily nap, I’m trying to move her towards a
daily routine of finding quiet time to sit and be still, to not
have to “do” things or chores. Once she’s given
up napping completely (shudder) I’ll switch from her
night-night music to a cd of Bible stories, which will hopefully
lead to solo devotional time when she’s older.

But back to yesterday. We had all the theories in place, and they
were tested. Maddie waited quietly in her bed, then called me in
and told me she couldn’t sleep. I said she could get up to
play quietly after one more song, which she patiently waited
through before turning on the light and heading towards her doll
house. I reminded her she couldn’t leave until I came to get
her, and left. Except for calling me in to ask if playing with a
certain toy might wake Cora, Maddie stayed to herself and was
wonderfully quiet the whole time. I’d determined a certain
time at which I’d go release her, and for the last twelve
minutes of her quiet time I heard her singing Kool N’ the
Gang’s “Celebration” over and over.

As I walked up the stairs to get Maddie out she began calling,
“Mommy!” When I walked in the room with a huge grin on
my face, she lit up on seeing me. “Baby girl, you played
quietly the whole time! I am so proud of you!” I said,
sweeping her into a big hug. “Really? You weren’t
disappointed I called for you before you came to get me?”
“Nope,” I replied, “because I was already on my
way when you called out. You did a terrific job waiting patiently.
What a great use of your quiet time. You are such a big

Maddie was droopy that night and asleep before her nighttime
routine was finished, but she wasn’t extraordinarily cranky
so I know these nap-less days will be more common. Right now
they’re coming about every ten days or so, and I’m
gradually resigning myself to them. And as long as they’re
traded for quiet time, I’ll be ok.

I just need a few minutes for a break. And a Kit-Kat bar.


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