My mom told me the other day that she cried when my brother Tim, the youngest of her four children, stopped taking a regular nap. She actually cried. Sobbed. Dropped to her knees and wept at her terrible misfortune. This episode happened nearly 30 years ago and, for a brief moment, I thought she was going to squeeze out a few more tears just thinking about it.
There are certain cataclysmic moments in life that one never forgets. Folks from the Greatest Generation can tell you exactly where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Farmers can tell you about that wicked summer evening when hail wiped out their entire crop. And stay-at-home parents can tell you the precise date when their toddler stopped taking a nap.
Luckily, at 2 years old, my son has not totally given up naps yet. But for the first time, he recently refused his nap for an entire day. Our conversation that day went something like this:
"No nappy! No nappy!"
My son yelled at me.
"You’ve got to be kidding,"
I replied in great misery.
"Want to play trains!"
The little boy started to cry.
"Play with this pillow!"
Was my lamebrain reply.
"No pillow! No blanket! No crib!"
he said, rubbing his eyes.
"But I WANT to clean the kitchen,"
I said, shocking myself with surprise.
So that was the beginning of the end. Now I wait, knowing that my precious and always anticipated "free time" will soon disappear into thin air, becoming indistinguishable from the rest of the day.
I can hear those folks without kids, those bow-tied workaholics, snickering at me now. "Aw, poor guy. He won’t have any more free time. Too bad. Maybe now he can see what it’s like for the rest of us living in the real world."
OK, OK. I’m the first to admit that being a stay-at-home dad is not necessarily hard. Unlike those who claim that it’s the most difficult job you could ever have, I prefer to simply say that as a stay-at-home parent you definitely need three things: patience, patience and patience. It’s not the most physically demanding job, and it’s not the most mentally taxing task. But it does take patience and, when a child gives up his nap, it requires A LOT of patience.
The "free time" a parent gets while his or her child naps is like a regular office worker’s lunchtime. You don’t get paid for it, but it’s sure nice to have the break. To take naptime away would most certainly be against the union contract, if stay-at-home parents were unionized.
Office workers can shut their doors, let their phone ring and pretend they’re not at their desks or go out to lunch, but stay-at-home parents are always accessible to their children. You can’t just go to the bathroom without a toddler-in-potty-training waiting to flush for you so he can get the extra practice. You can’t just eat a sandwich without a child begging for a bite of yours, even when he has the exact same sandwich on his plate.
Once naptime is gone, so goes the opportunity to accomplish anything not kid-related. Fortunately, those tremendous kid-related accomplishments that you witness each day make it all worthwhile.
By Brian Kantz
Brian Kantz — author of Stay-at-Home Dad. Stay. Good Boy — can be reached at www.briankantz.com.