Prisoners of nap

by Matt Villano

Prisoners of nap

Family vacations amplify every aspect of our love-hate relationships with naps. And in many cases, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Generally speaking, we parents of young kids have a love-hate relationship with naps. We love them because they make our maniacal kiddos human again and give us some much-needed moments of peace and quiet during the day. We hate them because sometimes—OK, in the name of Adam Mansbach, it’s really more often than not—they rule our lives.

Family vacations amplify both sides of this equation. And sometimes, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

We’ve been grappling with this first-hand in Hawaii all week. The culprit: our toddler, a wonderful-but-fiercely-independent 3-year-old.

Miss L is a nap-resister at home, where she regularly postpones the inevitable with age-old tactics such as the emergency bathroom plea (“Daddy, but I have to make pee!”) and what I like to call UPOAs—Unexpected Paroxysms of Affection (I admit, I’m a sucker for these).

Here, on Maui, L has abandoned subtle protestations in favor of flat-out punk. With the sun and the plumeria and the nene birds and geckos and the surf and the wind competing for her attention, she acts like a nap is a fate worse than death.

To be honest, we haven’t really devised a way to deal. The first few days, as part of a concerted effort to manage jet lag, we pretty much forced the naps upon her, instituting 1 p.m. daily lockdown, either in the condo or the car seat. The last two days, we’ve embraced a more laissez-faire approach, living the day exactly as we’d do it if she were 12, and allowing her to decide when she should sleep.

When we force the naps, it ends up taking her anywhere from 30-75 minutes to fall asleep, and another 30 to 45 to come to after she wakes up.

When we let her call the shots, she opts not to nap at all (no surprise there). These days usually are “highlighted” by two other major occurrences: 1) some sort of tantrum around the witching hour of 1 p.m., and 2) a face-plant into dinner at the table (or a meltdown in the tub).

I’m not sure which approach I like more.

On paper, forcing naps seems best, but the pre-nap ritual can be brutal—and it’s annoying to have to plan the entire day around a routine that may or may not devolve into an ordeal. Conversely, though letting L call the shots admittedly seems like the worst idea ever, there’s something to be said for having her AND her baby sister (who, thankfully, is a great sleeper) down by 630 pm every night.

In three years as a traveling Dad, I’ve learned that overplanning and overthinking this stuff gets you nowhere. If you want to construe that statement as capitulating to being prisoner of my daughter’s naps (for the next few weeks), so be it. I’m confident we’ll figure this out sooner or later. In the meantime, we’re open to any suggestions y’all might have.