Doctors and parents are always talking about our children reaching certain developmental "milestones," referring to those age-specific skills that children acquire as they grow. They hold their heads up, sit on their own, creep and crawl around, and then stand and walk. We look forward to the day when Jr. first flashes a smile, turns his head when his name is called and utters his initial words and sounds. Moments after my Grace took her first timid step, in fact, I called my own parents 400 miles away, just to share the excitement. These are the magical days when our little ones achieve all of their "firsts."
This post is not about those days.
Grace reached a brand new milestone of her own this autumn. You see, she no longer takes a nap. I've been selfishly trying to deny that her napping days are over, but I think I've finally come to terms with the facts. Here is a brief history.
When she was young, Grace was a terrific napper. Three hours at a time was not unheard of. With her unconscious in the other room, I was able to get things done around the house, but more importantly, I could enjoy some "baby-free" time. No whining, crying, bottles, or the marathon sessions of performance art* that parenting really is. It was the time I used to depressurize the cabin, if you will. Soon enough she went from two naps a day to one, but that was fine. I still got my alone time in.
Eventually her naps got shorter and shorter, and blast the day she learned to get out of bed and open the door! At least I found ways to keep her in her room. I'd let her read books in bed, play with dolls, and so on. She was satisfied with that for a while, but I felt like a real shmoe because I knew that I was only trapping her in there so that I could catch a break. Hey, a guy deserves a break, right?
Over the past few weeks, however, a new pattern began to emerge, making my own selfish behavior became harder to deny. She'd stay in her room for maybe ten minutes or so and then slowly creep out. She'd tell me about the book she was reading and then slink back into her room. A few minutes later she'd reappear to tell me what her dolls were up to. This back-and-forth went on for a while, and finally I had to admit to myself what was going on: She was trying to devise a way to play with me without violating the requirement that she stay in her room. So, I had to admit that the game was over. No more naps for Grace. Her brother still takes a snooze in the afternoon, and now she and I take that time to do something that would be difficult with him around, like painting, Play-Doh, spin art or something. My "Daddy Time" has become "Daddy/Daughter Time," and I guess that's okay. No more naps for me on the couch, but the uninterrupted playtime I get with her is pretty nice, too. I'll just go to bed a bit earlier from now on.
*Seriously. Where else but a Greenwich Village performance space will you find a person who spends as much time dancing, singing, jumping, twirling, hiding, making faces, speaking in an unnatural tone of voice, negotiating, miming, covering him/herself in paint and glitter, disguising food, reading aloud and saying things like "Please don't lick the doors" as a parent?