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The Art of Napping

I sometimes envy the nappers of the world.

I don’t really know how to take a nap, or at least at this stage of my life, I don’t know how to peacefully nap without that underlying nagging thought of I’m not getting anything done.

There, I said it.  That is it in a nutshell. Frankly, I find sleeping at night pretty much a waste of time in itself, never mind napping. If I could live without the nighttime slumber, I would.

There have been times in my life when I have taken naps; my husband David and I took naps as college student, curled up together on a couch or wherever we landed after a study session. We continued taking naps together when I was pregnant with my first and even after Dan was born. Despite our on-campus jobs and our classes, if we were home together during the day when Dan took a nap, we’d cuddle up together and sleep too.  Those naps were harder to coordinate when more children joined the fray that became our family. I would try nursing a baby with a toddler laying behind me, but one or the other wouldn’t cooperate and I’d end up feeling frustrated.  I can’t pinpoint exactly when the idea of a nap became pure frustration instead of relaxation, but it trickled down to my nightly sleep as well.  My worst sleeper was baby number three, Michael.  He was an angelic baby during the day; never crying and smiling and gurgling happily. But at night, he was transformed into a demonic, non-sleeper.  The only way I could get him to sleep was to rock him and I spent so much time in the rocking chair I not only learned to sleep sitting up, but I actually broke a rocking chair. I spent most of my days back then in a sleep-deprived stupor, praying for sleep.  During Michael’s first year of life, I napped whenever I could. I would have paid $100 for a full night’s sleep.

Speaking of tiredness, I can vividly remember that all-encompassing fatigue of pregnancy.  I couldn’t help but nap during pregnancy, especially if I lay down with a toddler.  With some pregnancies (#4, #6, #7 and #8) I was still nursing a toddler when I became pregnant so while nursing them to sleep I would inevitably fall asleep too.  Dan and Beth took full advantage of this when I left them in front of the television watching the PBS station while I put their brother down for a nap. Nine times out of ten, I’d fall asleep too.  It was that tenth time when I came downstairs without napping and they were gone that I realized they were wandering the alleys of Cedar Falls during that hour! 

With my last two pregnancies, naps were more essential, me being an “older mother” and all, but even less accessible. Without a napping toddler (and most of my children gave up naps before the age of 3) it became nearly impossible to take a nap.  Who would be watching the youngest child while I napped? Not only did the naps stop, but so did the lone baths.  Even to this day (and my youngest is 6), I can rarely take a bath without having someone shouting or knocking on the other side of the door.

As a pregnant over-40 mom, I would practically pass out on the carpeted floor as a child played nearby. Once, during my last pregnancy, I fell asleep in front of the heating vent and woke up to Katie drawing with an ink pen on my back.  After that, I often enticed her to “draw on Mommy” while I dozed. I would also sit with her in the front seat of the van with a window cracked open. With the warm sun beating down on my torso and Katie safely ensconced inside, I felt relaxed enough to drift off to sleep for a short while.  Why the van? Let’s just say that God had a sense of humor in giving me my two most active children after the age of 40, and I wouldn’t have felt safe taking a nap if Katie wasn’t in close proximity.

So, it has been years since I have taken naps.  Even when I am supposed to take a nap (as in ordered to by a doctor) I have a hard time actually doing so.  Besides the fact that one of my older children inevitably comes screaming up the stairs or barreling through the bedroom door with a pressing question like “Can I have a piece of toast?” I can’t get past that feeling that I am wasting time.  I think, perhaps, this has something to do with my pressing need for more time. Sadly, I do have to sleep sometime, but no matter what time I get to bed or what time I get up, I can never seem to get more than one or two hours alone.  If I get up at 6:00, which is my usual rising time, most days of the week I will be taking a walk with my sister from 7:00-8:00, which knocks out an hour of my alone time. And, once the kids start getting up, between 8:30 and 9:00, all bets are off~ my time is no longer my own, until the next morning when I come downstairs, put on the coffee pot and sit for a few minutes while the coffee brews, listening to the silent house.  I feel torn with that quiet time, never knowing what to do first: warm up my writing engines with a letter or a blog posting, read the newspaper, or dig in and start writing when I know my muse will be interrupted with either a husband, children, or the aforementioned walk.  My time is so limited that if I get the opportunity to actually take a nap it must mean my children are entertained elsewhere, and if that is the case, wouldn’t I rather write or read than sleep? 

Yesterday, I was so worn out from all the Christmas preparations I felt like flopping on the floor and sleeping for a day or two.  Instead, I curled up in my pajamas on my bed and read an entire book. And then David came upstairs around 2:00 and said he was going to take a nap.  I curled up around him like I used to when we were dating and we cuddled, and it felt so deliciously sleepy-good, like a veil of slumber covering us.  Five minutes,  eight, maybe even ten…and then I was jarred awake by a child running up the stairs calling for me;

“Mom, mom, where are you?” 

David didn’t even stir. Rather than let them disturb him, I got out of bed quickly and stumbled out into the hallway, closing the door behind me.  I didn’t want to wake up, I didn’t want to get up, but hey~ I wasn’t expecting to get a nap so at least I didn’t have to deal with the disappointment of unmet expectations.  Of course, I sighed.  I wanted to be back in that bed.  Then I remembered letting Katie draw on me so I could get a nap and I suggested to Abby that she play quietly with her new gel art kit set while I lay down on her bed.  And, do you know, it worked. I drifted back to sleep for a good 20 minutes (which is the recommended nap time anyway) and it felt soooo good. I realized then, the appeal of the afternoon nap.  Today, I could do it again.  I almost fell asleep at Mass this morning. (and may have, I can’t remember the sermon) My husband just headed upstairs and I know the kids won’t bother him while he naps, they never do.  But if I follow him, I can rest assured my nap will be interrupted. 

And frankly, I have too much to do this afternoon to take another nap.

But when I am an old woman, and the kids are all gone, and the house is quiet I will get up in the middle of the night and put on a pot of coffee and write for hours by the dim light of a computer screen, then go back to bed at 4:00 a.m.  I will watch television mid-day and fall asleep watching all the shows I don’t have time for now. (IS there anything even worth watching?) I’ll read piles of books and magazines. 

And some days, for no other reason than that I can, I’ll curl up next to my husband in the middle of the afternoon and contentedly take a nap.

Author:

Author, public speaker, and workshop presenter for community colleges, libraries, women's groups and for grief support groups, Hospice and retreats. Certified grief counselor and Senior Service librarian for the James Kennedy Public library. Popular public speaker and workshop presenter on the topics of writing, couponing, utilizing your creativity in everyday life, and finding hope in grief. "Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America's Extreme Obsession" was published by Familius Publishing in 2014. "Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage" and "Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace" were released by Familius in 2014. "Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink," co-written with Mary Jedlicka Humston of Iowa City, was published in September 2015. Grief journal to be released in 2018.

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