Michelle Martin

The pleasure of an afternoon nap

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Once upon a time, years ago now, I told Caroline that she would know she was grown up when she wanted to take a nap.

I may have been a bit on the generous side there; at 16, Caroline has been a dedicated napper for at least a couple of years. But early in her life, she never napped, or at least not often, and not according to any predictable schedule. The one time she did fall asleep in her preschool naptime, she woke in such a foul mood that I think her teachers prayed that nothing like that ever happened again.

Frank and Teresa, on the other hand, were dedicated nappers, zonking out every afternoon for at least two hours, sometimes three, just like clockwork. The days that I was home with them, it was bliss. Time to clean the bathrooms, wash the dishes, do the laundry, without a 2½- foot shadow trying to help.

But for both of them, that nap routine stopped cold, pretty much within days of their third birthdays. It was like a timer went off: I’m 3, and I don’t take naps any more.

Oh well.

Now, Teresa is almost 5 and in school five days a week, including two days that I don’t go to the office. That means that for the first time since before Caroline was born, I have regular time at home alone. About two hours, two afternoons a week, as long as I don’t end up with work to do, or errands to run, or someone to meet.

I’d like to say I use that time to be productive: to do the prep work for dinner, to clean the house, to work in the yard, even to read a book that required more brain cells than I can reliably dedicate after bedtime.

But most of the time, that’s not what I do at all. No, most of the time, I set the alarm on my phone and curl up on the couch, or even in my bed, and I sleep. I sleep soundly enough that much of the time I fall into dreams.

Then I wake and go pick Teresa up at school.

I once read that if you can fall asleep in 10 minutes in a darkened room in the middle of the day, you’re sleep deprived. If that’s the case, then I’ve been sleep deprived for my entire adult life. My adolescent life, too. And you don’t even have to give me a darkened room, or quiet — just no one calling my name or asking for a snack or wanting me to tie a shoe or fix the TV.

So as we move through Advent and get ready for Christmas, I’d encourage everyone to remember the pleasure of an afternoon nap. If you’re not in a place or time in your life where that’s possible, no worries; just close your eyes for a moment and pretend, and know that sometime, somehow, even just on vacation, it will happen. Give yourself permission to dream a little.


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