Coordinated naps, I've come to realize, are the Holy Grail of parenting two or more children. Each day is spent in a calculated quest for an hour to myself in the afternoon and my whole day is structured around that sacred chunk of time. I choose my outings wisely. I don't go out during morning naps. I keep my older one up a little longer if the baby isn't quite ready. I manipulate and strategize and keep beautifully formatted (though rarely updated) Excel spreadsheets in my endeavor for coordinated naps. Just enough time to eat lunch, by myself, in front of last night's television shows. THAT'S ALL I ASK.
I thought I was doing everything right today. Even though we had a lot going on --playgroup in the morning, getting together with a friend and her two kids in the afternoon -- I was confident. Molly had woken up early enough to take her morning nap in the actual morning, so we were already doing better than the day before, when she hadn't napped at all. AT. ALL. We were an hour late to playgroup, because not even a cup of coffee and adult conversation could lure me away from the Holy Nap Schedule!
Molly and Jack fell asleep in the car on the ride home, and I, Keeper of the Schedule, was expecting this. I had multiple strategies for every scenario. As it turned out, they were both still asleep when I turned off the engine -- the best scenario I could hope for -- but then Jack blinked awake when I tried to take off his shoes. And that was the end of that.
Jack was wide awake when I finally hauled him up the stairs and tossed him into the crib. He was shouting to himself and thwacking the crib bars with his feet when I brought a wide awake Molly into my room to try and nurse her down. And of course she wasn't having any of THAT. I'd nurse her, I'd put her down, she'd wake up and cry, I'd pick her up -- round and round and round. And Jack jabbered away in the next room, telling me in his own Jack language that he had no interest in napping, thankyouverymuch.
It's not like I don't know that Nap Drama happens all the time. And even though it feels like it is, it's not the end of the world. I'd spent some time in the morning instant messaging a friend with a newborn, trying to talk her off her breastfeeding ledge. "It's not always like this," I told her, even though I know it's a useless thing to say. Useless, but true. And I tried to repeat it to myself while I watched the clock, scarfed down a sandwich, and emailed the friend I planned to see that afternoon. Coordinated howling is not the same thing as coordinated napping, I told her. Our get-together was not looking good.
Every time the monitor went dark, every time Jack went silent and Molly stopped fussing, that annoying twinge of hope took root in my brain and whispered, "This could be it! This could be it!" But no, minutes later one of them eventually started up again, which would stir the other one out of his or her near-slumber and the party started over. One poopy diaper, two cry-it-out rescues, two hours and a total nervous breakdown later, my kids were asleep. Until Molly woke up a half hour later. OF COURSE.
My friend called when I was sprawled half dead on the couch, Molly happily batting at toys on a blanket beside me. "I've been up since 4 a.m.," she wailed. "This day sucks." So at least my misery had some company. We complained about our unacceptable napping situations, discussed how to achieve the elusive coordinated nap, wondered if we'd ever get to see each other in person again. And to make ourselves feel a little better we talked about our other friend, the one with a newborn and a breast infection and [here we shuddered] BLISTERS. At least we didn't have it THAT bad.