This week, we’ve been playing a lot of the game called “Keep the 3 year old awake.” If you’ve ever had a 3 year old, you might know what game I mean.
Sometime between their 2nd and 3rd birthdays, that afternoon nap starts to come later and later as the tot fights it. There is, after all, so much excitement going on. I had fewer problems when I had only 1 or 2 children who were all napping. But these younger ones know, no matter how quiet the house is, that older siblings are not sleeping. And they don’t want to miss out on…whatever.
So, by the 3rd birthday, I throw my hands in the air and give up trying to put a child to sleep after lunch. And at 4 pm, I get a tot in meltdown. I go back to naps. I give up naps. This goes on for months until we get to where I am now.
Now, the meltdowns are less common, and she sleeps later in the morning…what a blessing. Still, though, she doesn’t get quite enough sleep, and if she’s had a busy day (and with the gorgeous weather we’ve been having, they’ve been running around outside for hours), then by late afternoon, she’s exhausted.
If I let her sit in front of the TV, she falls asleep. If I have to drive some child to an activity, she falls asleep. If the TV is off, and I’m not driving anywhere, she wants to sit in my lap and fall asleep. If my lap is unavailable, she’ll crash on the bottom step leading upstairs or on the trampoline or under the dining room table.
And her sleep is not like most sleeps; it is a special comatose sleep. Words do not penetrate her little brain when she falls asleep. I can promise candy, ice cream, pony rides, a pedicure…and get no response. Tickles, rubs, jostles, a bed of nails, medieval torture devices…do nothing to stir her.
Cold water is somewhat effective.
Yes, I have put a cold wash cloth around her neck. Yes, I have put her hair under cold running water at the kitchen sink. I am not proud. I am desperate.
Because if allowed to sleep, she will take a nice long nap and wake up…at bedtime. Her bedtime. And 2 hours later, at my bedtime, she will still be happily wide awake. And although she will go to bed, in my bed, and settle down and eventually go to sleep, she will be in my bed, between my husband and I, and she will have spent two hours with us, time which we use to talk and discuss the day and relax and plan and not entertain a 3 year old.
I jealously guard my grownup time.
So, the best thing is to not let her fall asleep. Most afternoons find me asking, frequently, “Where is Mary?” The kids know I don’t suspect mischief; they want me to make sure she’s still awake. If in the car, siblings maintain a vigil to make sure her eyes don’t droop.
Yesterday afternoon, the pizza was baking and I was sitting at the computer. Mary crawled into my lap and snuggled nicely against me. Oh, it was so lovely. How I enjoy the feeling of a tiny body contentedly relaxing in the soft comfort of my lap. Unfortunately, 430 pm is not a good time for this. “No sleeping,” I said, sternly. “I not,” she insisted, eyes at half mast. I made her sit up. I poked her in the ribs. I talked about the pizza that was almost done.
This went on until we were ready to eat. After perking up for 5 minutes to eat most of a slice, she started to doze, leaning back in the dining room chair. Then we had to drive Fritz to baseball practice. Her eyes drooped in the driveway. I started an argument with her. I told her she had beautiful brown eyes.
“They’re not brown, they’re green!”
“No, they’re brown!”
This kept her going the whole way there and home. It even sustained her afterward. She was still awake when we went back for Fritz and didn’t fall asleep on the way home. She went to bed promptly at 8 pm, and did not get up until 730 this morning.
After grownup time last night and this morning, I am ready to take on the world.