Operation: Toddler Bed, Part 2

By four-thirty in the afternoon, I had given up. Fine. No nap. My quads and hamstrings were burning from my stair-sprints and I was demoralized. I sent Tighe a text that read “no nap,” but it had an underlying meaning: “Come home. Don’t be late or else I guarantee someone will lose a limb tonight. We’re all very much on edge here. I may or not be able to make dinner, and if not, we’ll snack on Skittles and stale pretzels after they fall asleep. You will not complain or you will lose more than a limb.”


Because without a nap, Sam is an absolute maniac. That night at dinner, he alternated between a zombie state and bursts of angry, malevolent excitement. His eyelids hung low and every time he made eye contact with you, you felt like he had taken a piece of your soul. Too tired to actually eat, he settled for licking ketchup from his plate, just enough sugar to sustain him until bedtime. It was very scary, but Tighe and I knew there was a light at the end of a very short tunnel— after a violent, rebellious tantrum, he’d be fast asleep by 7PM.


But he wasn’t.


Instead he crept down the steps to spy on us through the railing—like a little agent of Fidel Castro, spying on the American way of life. We weren’t doing anything he shouldn’t see—nothing he’d need therapy for. We sat in sleepy, exhausted states on the sofa, calming down after the whirlwind that is bedtime, ready for Netflix.


Tighe got up, slowly and reluctantly, carried him back to bed and returned to his butt groove on the couch. Upon his second attempt, I got up and returned him to bed. We took turns twice more, and on that last trip, he climbed out before I had even turned away from the bed. Immediately I said “no” and watched while he climbed back in. As soon as I turned my back, he was out again, making a break for the bathroom to get into Nate’s room.


“Nope! Back in bed!”


But this was a real mutiny! He refused! I put him back in his bed as he was kicking and thrusting his arms, arching his back in that classic sociopathic toddler motion of resistance. As soon as I’d land him on the mattress, he’d squirm out again. And this was a night of a “no nap” afternoon! He had to be exhausted! He should have been collapsing—surrendering—to sleep!


Finally, after about ten attempts, I sighed, falling to my knees on the floor.


“Sam? Do you want your crib back?”


“Yes! Crib!”


By the time Tighe wandered in a few minutes later, I was using a screwdriver to reaffix the full crib rail back onto his bed. Sam was dancing around me joyously, waving his plastic screwdriver in the air.


“Mom fix crib! Crib, Dad! Crib!”


“If you have an opinion about this, I really don’t want to hear it,” I said to Tighe without looking at him. “I don’t care. I give up. We can try again in a few months. Or years.”  My voice was flat, without emotion. I was weary. And I hate failure.


Sam was thrilled. I think the crib rail made him feel more secure. He was tired—too tired to even look up a synonym for “tired.”


We’re still struggling with naptime, but we seem to have achieved some sort of balance of power—a truce. He’s napping most of the time, but it’s not always in the fashion that I like. I had to sacrifice some of my sovereignty, give him some liberty, and we’re at peace with that at the moment. Not quite free elections—true democracy—but it’s a step.


I know that we’ll fight this battle again and again with Sam: potty training, going to school, underage drinking, driving a car. I know that he needs his freedoms. I’m excited for his freedoms, I just want him to take a nap before he attempts them.