The 5 Stages of No-Naps Acceptance

As I mentioned last week, we took away my 3-year-old’s pacifier. It was obviously for the best, which I have to keep reminding myself as I listen to him bouncing off the bedroom walls during his naptime. His twin brother, with his soothing finger-sucking, still wants to sleep. Unfortunately, my former paci-addict just can’t seem to settle himself and is dragging his twin down with him.

This nap-fighting is nothing new. We’ve been here before, around the time that we switched them to toddler beds. No joke, it literally took about a month until they went back to their usual nap schedule. I had finally resigned myself to the fact that they were giving up their naps for good when they suddenly slipped back into old, reliable sleep habits.


Eight months later though, here we are again. And, once again, it feels more circumstantial than biological. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re spending a good hour making obstacle courses out of pillows and knocking crap off of their shelves. It doesn’t change the fact that my own quiet time — which I use to do work or watch Real Housewives or eat my lunch without having to share — is now interrupted by squealing and laughing and the heart-stopping sounds of thumps and bangs. Even if there are a few minutes of silence, it’ll inevitably be followed by crying as my quiet twin yells at his brother to “Let me sleeeeeeeep!” or “Don’t step on me!” Poor kid.

So, yeah, naptime kind of sucks these days…like a lot. And every single day, I find myself moving through the stages of grief over their fallen naps. If you live for your child’s naps as much as I do, you might recognize the roller coaster of emotions we go through in one hour-long period. Such as:

1. The Wishful Thinking Stage. You closed the blinds, made the bed cozy, and read two books in a soft, soothing, hypnotic voice. You stroked his forehead with your fingertips, tucked him in tight, and tiptoed out of the room so as not to disturb the peaceful silence. He’s so tired, you think to yourself, reassured that exhaustion will knock him out cold. As soon as you shut the door though, you hear rustling. You hear singing. You hear his feet pattering on the floor and something falling. You hear paper shredding and wonder where he got paper from. You hear an “uh-oh” and decide it’s nothing. That’s okay, you remind yourself. He just needs a few minutes to get settled. He’s going to nap today. And once again, you tell yourself how tired he is.

2. The Negotiation Stage. Fifteen minutes later, it sounds like he’s throwing a party in there. Did he invite the neighborhood kids over or is it simply just a small get-together with him and his twenty closest dinosaur friends? Something must be done. So you go in and explain that he needs to take a nap. That if he doesn’t take a nap, he can’t ride his scooter later. Or he can’t go to the store. Or he can’t watch a show later…wait, never mind, you need him to watch a show later. Ultimately, you resort to bribes. “Please, please, just lay down. Just rest,” you plead. “If you take a nap today, you can have M&M’s…What? Okay, yes, you can have five M&M’s…All right, ice cream, you can have ice cream if you nap. Deal?”

3. The Silent Screaming Stage. Your negotiation was a massive failure. He’s still not sleeping…probably too excited over the prospect of ice cream. Great plan, Mommy. At this point, you’re at a loss. When bribes fail, what do you have? Nothing! NOTHING! You want to scream at the top of your lungs, “GO THE EFF TO SLEEP!” except you can’t because, if he hears you, he’ll start calling for you from the door (“Mommy? Moooooooommy? MOMMY!”). So instead, you grit your teeth, clench your fists, look to the heavens and silently wail.

4. The TCB (Taking Care of Business) Stage. Sooooo, it’s looking like you’re not going to have an hour or so to fold laundry, pay bills, and make that dark chocolate pretzel bark you so desperately need right now. This is the moment of acceptance. This is when you decide what kind of Mom you want to be. You’ve got ten minutes until you’re going to have to release your wild beast (aka, precious angel) from its cage. So you go into hyper-accelerated mode, ripping through your to-do list at a superhero pace, still with enough time to get that chocolate melted and those pretzels crushed. Because, priorities.

5. The Surrender. The truth is, you lost this battle long before you even changed him into his comfy pants. He was letting you read him stories all soothing-like, but the whole time was just thinking, “Sucker!” Well, just look at the bright side: Now you have even more time with your adorable little one. So what if he just terrorized your psyche for the last hour? So what if it feels like his lack of nap was a deliberate act of defiance? So what if you haven’t showered and your head is pounding and you barely got to eat your lunch? You can build a fort or do a puzzle or draw together. Oh, screw that…is it cocktail hour yet?

Photo: Getty