Sleep, Sweet Babies, Sleep

It’s nearly proverbial, you know. That resistance to sleep that is wholly ingrained in the youngest of people, the ones who always need that nap the most. My gentle reminders for a short restful nap are met with shrieks, and tears, and running, and bargaining, and just about any other tactic or obstacle that my busy toddlers can create to delay the inevitable nap. A little rest. Just rest. It must be ingrained in the mind of a toddler to fend off sleep with the fury of an angry rooster. Some days it seems easier to skip the afternoon siesta, but in reality, it isn’t. Rest, naps, and sweet slumber are critical to the emotional well-being of my toddlers. And of course, to their mom.

But in all honesty, I am no better. At 10:30 pm my fitbit reminds me that it is time to unwind for bed. And yet, at 10:30 pm I am still going strong. Finishing a load of laundry, folding a few towels, setting out the outfits for the following day. Clearing the days clutter so that I can start fresh in the morning. Jotting down thoughts for one more blog, one more article, another piece of music, then scrambling to pay a bill, tuck in the baby chicks for the night, and turning off all the lights. It’s more than an hour later that I finally crash, and yet my mind keeps racing as I try to get my body to sleep. When we are too busy to rest, we are simply too busy.

There is a hush that falls across the homestead in the middle of the day. Funny how it coincides with my own wee ones nap times. The activity in the chicken yard comes to a halt, and I see little groups of hens, snuggled up beneath the goat shed, or huddled under the belly of the van. The goats cease their playful antics, and cuddle up in a mash of straw and bits of left over hay. The silkie chicks pile up in the corner where the sunlight plays across their pen, a heap of fuzz and feathers being warmed in the sun.  My elderly kitty leaves her post on the bed, only to find just the right spot where she can snooze away the afternoon, relaxed in the sun. How is it that these animals know better than I? I, who try to cram every last bit of work and hustle into the hour and a half that my little ones are tucked away in their rooms, racing to accomplish just one more task, while the rest of the world that is my little homestead peacefully rests? The soft chirping of the brand new buff orpingtons tucked beneath their Ecoglow is soothing as I struggle to finish up one more thing before my gaggle of toddlers is jumping for joy to climb out of their beds again.

We are all in dire need of rest. We are all in desperate need of a break from the busy lives of parenthood, where the chauffering of children to their activities is draining on parent and child alike. We are in need of a break from the hectic rhythms of the work day, to slow our pace, and spend time together. We are in need of a break from the onslaught of information that we constantly crave, the status updates, the tweets, and the wealth of Google’s knowledge at our fingertips. We need to let our bodies, our minds, and our souls, find their rest.

I know what it is I need.

I need to still my body from the work, close my eyes, and allow my body it’s sweet slumber so I have the strength to face another task, another day.

I need to still my mind, to shut down the tech, to breathe in the fresh air of the country and breathe out all the cares of my day, and just be, alive, and refreshed, in the sunshine of the day or the stillness of the evening.

And I need to still my soul, to place it’s care into the hands of the ever-loving Jesus, to accept His rest, and allow myself to receive His peace. But I won’t find it if I’m running, I won’t hear the quiet of His voice if I am scrolling and surfing and tuning the world out with my iPad or my phone. If I truly want to find His rest, I need to make some time to be at rest.

It’s hard to shut it down. It’s hard to disconnect from the technology that I enjoy. It’s hard to refrain from googling the answer to every question my children pose. It’s hard to cut myself off form the workload, and lay my weary body down to sleep. But I am no longer a toddler who does not understand the things his little body needs.

I know my little ones need their slumber, so I’ll do the work of calming their little bodies down for sleep, no matter what antics they throw my way in order to thwart their own rest. And if I am going to care for myself so that I can be strong, and kind, and joyful, and accomplished, I need to stop the antics, and cease thwarting my own desperately needed rest.

Turn if off and shut it down. Close it up and pull the plug. Turn off the lights. It’s time to sleep. Sleep, sweet babies. Sleep, sweet mama. Just sleep.

 

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Hope for the weary parent: 10 tips to make sure naptime is your time

In my little world, with a homestead to build and music to schedule and blogs to write and an overwhelming amount of laundry to wash and fold shove into dressers that are way too small, nap time is seriously critical. I’m talking my life revolves around nap time, critical. I mean, I’m pretty sure I might actually expire from the overwhelming level of insanity if my children don’t take their naps level of critical. And with 6 kids under the age of 9, it feels like an assault on my personhood when they decide they would rather eat, play, yell, scream, jump on my head, make a mess, or be silly instead of taking their nap. If I don’t get a little break in the action so that I can eat, sleep, read, write, plan, have a coffee, schedule, think, drink a glass of water or take pictures of my chickens, then I’m probably not going to make it to parent pickup with my pleasant mama attitude intact. In fact, it could get downright ugly in that oversized van of mine if I haven’t had a little bit of quiet time to get recharged. I love my children more than life itself, but I honestly NEED to catch a breather from the ADHD of it all. Really.

Since no one wants to see me when my babies haven’t had their slumber, and begging, pleading, scolding, and sobbing doesn’t really at all, help I’ve learned to be very creative and consistent in dealing with naptime struggles. Here are just 10 of my favorite ways to deal with nap time when it’s not going well.

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10. Know the signs. Once my kiddos get wound up, there is no hope of a nap. The more tired they are, the more hyper they become. So the instant I sense a spike in hyperactivity, no matter how slight, it’s off to bed. Even before lunch. Ok, I can’t usually make it to lunch. It’s now.  Nap time is now.

9. Initiate quiet time. We don’t really have a television, so if they kids won’t nap, I can’t just plunk them down in front of a tv show while I get some work done (although it’s not a bad option if your littles will sit still for an episode or two of Blue’s Clues or Barney). So I tell them if they can’t sleep then they must relax in their beds with a book, a stuffed animal, a cozy blanket, and, when absolutely necessary, a sippy cup of milk (please don’t yell at me for ruining their teeth, thank you very much, not napping is an emergency in this house). Once in a while, forced quiet time has the desired effect and these always-on-the-go busy kids slow down and somehow fall asleep. To which I silently shout, “HALLELUJAH!”

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8. Get them outside. Nothing tires kids out better than playing outside. Whenever possible, out they go. See kids. See kids run. See kids run some more. See kids take a nice, long nap! See mommy turn into a normal human being again.


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7. Go with the flow. If the little minions have slept later than usual (And by the way, sleeping in is 6:00 in this house), I know they won’t be ready for a nap at noon so I can push it off a little bit, schedule permitting. But whenever possible, I like to keep them busy until the baby falls asleep. As soon as she is blissfully snoozing away, I race (on the inside anyway) to get them all in their beds so I can enjoy them all sleeping at the same time. The peace is indescribable. [Insert fist bump here for the awesomeness of 4 simultaneous nappers].

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6. Behold the sugar rush. Nothing destroys nap time quicker than a cat nap on the way home from preschool pickup. So I’ve recently resorted to passing out lollipops for the 12 minute ride home in order to keep their eyelids wide open until I can tuck them in their little beds.  I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. Does it make the van sticky? Yes. Do I care? Not if it means I get to eat my chocolate chip cookie at the kitchen table all by myself instead of hiding in my bathroom with the lights off…

5. Give them carbs. Yes carbs, the dreaded substance that stays on a mamas hips forever creates sleepiness in little tykes. I like to give them a nice carbohydrate type snack right before their nap- a banana, some pretzels, even some goldfish crackers – to help their little tummies feel full and happy for a nice long snooze. If that’s not ‘clean eating’ enough for you, oatmeal has the same effect, it just causes a lot more mess.

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4. Try alternate activities. If the nap just doesn’t happen, and quiet time is a total bust, you might have to try some other plan.  Just remember the rule: the messier it is, the more enraptured they will be. But hey, I’m not at all confessing or admitting to the time I  let the bambinos play in a bin full of whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and miniature diggers, or have play dough at the coffee table, or spend 3 hours in a bathtub just so that I could sit down with an actual hot cup of coffee (I was pretty convinced they were extinct.)

3. Make it routine. I don’t stick to a strict time schedule unless a particular day demands it, but I do try to stick to a routine. Free play, then snack, then nap, so the tiny tykes know just what to expect next and their little bodies follow suit.

2. Take a long drive. When I’m totally desperate? This is the way to go. I buckle them in, give them a some water in a sippy cup, and we’re motoring. Just remember to hit the bathroom first, and bring snacks. Lots of snacks. Snacks for you. Because you might be parked in that van with those sleepers for a very, very long time. Do not forget. There is a direct, causal relationship between how hungry you are and how badly you have to pee with how much longer they will sleep while you are doing the potty dance in the driver’s seat of your vehicle. Take my word for it.

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1. Sleep it off. I’m not usually one for napping myself, but for everyone who says “sleep when the baby sleeps,” this one’s for you! Snuggle up with a wayward napper and catch up on your zzzzz’s. Your sleepiness will probably rub off on them, and you’ll get a good nap in as well. It’ll make you prettier inside and out!

Ok, maybe not you, you don’t need to be prettier. But I need that nap to happen.

My attitude needs that nap to happen.

Parent pickup depends on it.