A long, long, long time ago (okay, maybe ten months ago,) both of my kids were in a fantastic daycare that had them on a set routine from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. They had snacks at the same time every day, they napped at the same time every day, and they even pooped at the same time every day (just about).
Life was predictable and all I had to do on the weekends was not mess up the naptime routine.
No pressure, right? I mean, they’re my kids. I should be able to manage their naptime routine, right? Wrong. Every vacation I took, every extra day off I spent with my kids, I was always returning to daycare apologizing for any extra sleepiness the kids might have, and any crankiness they may have shown while trying to adjust back to their daycare routine.
Let’s be honest- we try hard to give our kids structure and routine.
I don’t know about yours, but my kids thrive on predictability. However, since transitioning to stay-at-home-mom life compounded by a global pandemic and ‘Stay at Home’ orders- my kids’ naptime routine has become a figment of our imagination.
But guess what? My kids are still thriving! Even without their incredible daycare routine.
Of course, there was a little bit of a transition. We started with a subtle schedule of “library day,” “ballet day,” and “gymnastics day,” with all days strategically scheduled around naptimes. Despite my careful planning, however, every time we went anywhere the kids always fell asleep in the car! It didn’t matter if they closed their eyes for five minutes, or a full 45-minute car ride, they were wide awake when we got home. Naptime soon became my kids’ time for reading books and playing quietly in their beds, but hey- it’s still quiet time, right?
Yes, that is the logic I continue to remind myself of when my kids opt out of mid-afternoon shut-eye. When it comes down to it, should I stay chained to their beds and naptime schedules and avoid any adventure and outings? Or, do I bring my nature-loving, spirited kids out on adventures?
In the time since we’ve given up structure and routine, we’ve gone for walks, hikes, picked strawberries, had lunch dates with dad, went swimming at Grama’s, played disc golf in the woods, explored paths to rivers and lakes, and done a bunch of other socially distant activities. The point being, our adventures and the smiles on my kids’ faces are worth so much more than the designated naptime routine I’d force them to have before.
At the end of the day, I’m hoping to teach my kids how to live with a flexible schedule.
The kind of structure that ebbs and flows and we can adjust accordingly if plans fall through, or if weather turns bad. See, before my transition to this more-carefree, less planned lifestyle, before this new way of living, my kids lived by structure- or predictable planned activities. If something didn’t happen the way they thought or expected it should, there would be an epic meltdown of ugly-cry proportions.
Tantrums are exhausting.
I’ve learned to communicate with my kids about any plans we have, to form back up plans for potential issues we may encounter, and how to quickly figure something out if all of that fails. At the very end of explaining everything, I usually conclude with, “And if it doesn’t work out, it’s okay! Sometimes that happens.” Now, my daughter uses that phrase when telling my husband what is planned for the day. It makes me happy to see she’s opening up to modified plans. I’m sure when she wants to go swimming and it starts raining, she’s less than enthused. However, she’s already mentally prepared for the possibility of changing plans, so she’s already thinking of the many alternative activities she can do at Grama’s instead of swimming.
I may have two toddlers, but the frequency of toddler tantrums has decreased since I started using my new lack-of-a-naptime-routine flexible schedule methods.
That’s why it’s important to me to teach my kids that it’s okay to be flexible, and it’s okay for plans to not work out. It’s important to find the positive no matter what comes your way because you can always adjust and have fun anyway! This is definitely an easier said than done lesson, but if I start teaching them now at almost four and almost two, they might learn the lesson before they’re graduated and out of the house. Fingers crossed.
So, nap vs. no nap?