Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Joy Of Napping

More so than usual, I am counting down the minutes until 3:00 today.

That's because at 3 today I get to go home to a quiet, empty house and take as long a nap as I want. You have no idea how long it's been since I've been able to do that after work.

Now that I think about it, it's been something like, oh...7 1/2 years.

Ainsley is on spring break today through next week. Alas, I am not; the Catholic school and the public school spring break schedules do not align yet again. I have over a week before I get my break from the 18-and-under yahoos who fill my workdays and who I generally love, but who I so need some time away from.

But because my mother is playing nanny to Ainsley today and tomorrow (Jason takes his vacation next week) and is having Ains spend the night with her tonight, I get to go home and have a quiet afternoon nap like I used to before Ains was born.

Not to say I've never napped since the kid was born. She used to be an excellent napper before kindergarten or so. But when you're a mom, and you're napping while your kid naps, it's a restless sort of sleep with one eye and ear open. When they're babies, you're sleeping with the monitor on; when they're older, you're listening for a thud and a squeal that means your little daredevil has tried to climb out of the crib for the first time.

When Ainsley got older and was starting to nap for lesser amounts of time in her big-girl bed, I would often be startled awake by her standing over me on the couch, silently, awake from her nap but being supernaturally quiet in trying to wake me from mine. It always took a minute or two to scrape my heart off the ceiling and put it back into my chest cavity.

Eventually even my "mommy naps" with the kid became limited to just those weekend days when she happened to wake up really early and wore down by afternoon, and then one day they stopped altogether. I mourned them when they were gone.

I took for granted all those years when I could cope from a really exhausting day at work with a few minutes (or, let's be honest, hours) of quiet back in my dark, cool bedroom. Or in the recliner we used to have, with Oprah on in the background. A bad night's sleep, a disagreement with a co-worker, a bad chicken nugget from the cafeteria--all these ills could be cured by coming home to an empty house and powering down.

Those were the days.

In so many ways, being a parent is about adjusting. And putting your child's needs ahead of your own. Even though napping and needing an above-average amount of sleep is in my DNA, I've gotten used to running full-throttle from morning until night. I cope with the exhaustion and stress through other ways, including but not limited to going to bed some nights at 8 o'clock like a 70-year-old. Most days I don't even crave a nap.

Most days.

When my mom offered the have Ainsley room in with her overnight since her services were needed both Thursday and Friday, I ran through a few possible options on how to spend this precious bit of time when I could have the house to myself after a long day at school. I could sit on the back deck and read (though I would want to clean the winter dirt off first.) I could paint the inside of the front door to match the living room trim we had re-painted two years ago, a task I've been vowing to finish since then. I could engage in a little retail therapy and get myself a new Easter dress. I could pull weeds from the almost-hopeless mess the wet weather has made of our landscaping and get everything outside lookin new and refreshed. All those are valid things to want to do without having to monitor the whereabouts and safety of a young child.

As the week wore on (and wore on me), my decision became clear:

I am going home today and taking the best nap of all, the after-work nap. The phone will be turned off, the windows will be opened, and Cranky will get her groove back. Do not disturb. Just like the credit card ads say: Priceless.

Let's talk about naps, shall we? Are you a napper? If so, what's your favorite kind of nap?

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