Right now, my son is happily napping away in his crib, with his favorite lovey by his side and his hands crossed behind his head. This has been a favored position of his since he started developing his own self-soothing skills to sleep. I love when I see him like this because I know he is happy and at peace and able to really energize from his sleep. However, at the moment I am also battling mild feelings of guilt. I wish I could say that he blissfully drifted off to sleep when he was put in his crib this afternoon (just like he does 99% of the time), but I would be lying if I said that. In fact, this afternoon he played in his crib, crawling, standing, sitting, talking, humming, singing (and even mildly fussing) for over an hour. And ... I feel like it was my fault.
Today, after a relaxing (and yummy - scrambled eggs with cheese for breakfast) morning at home, we hopped in the car and went to a favorite friend's house for a play date. We were meeting four other mommies and their sons (along with one little baby sister) to go play at the park and have a picnic lunch. The timing was perfect! Playtime about 10:30, lunch about 12:00 and a 20 minute car ride back home to take a nap at 1:00. In fact - this is our preferred play date timing, one which we have executed perfectly time and time again.
Now I have to admit, there is always a margin of error concerning the "car ride home before nap time." I have mommy friends who fret and worry over this event, because if their toddler falls asleep in the car before "scheduled nap time" then they usually end up with a toddler that does not take a full nap (this is actually the "rule" and not the "exception" in well rested children). And that means a VERY CRANKY TODDLER come late afternoon! Nobody wants that! And I count myself, and my son, pretty lucky in that respect; if we are on our way home and he dozes for 10-15 minutes in the car, I can usually get him from the car to the crib with minimal waking and a quick toss-and-turn back to sleep ... Usually ... And the way that I prepare for this to happen is to change his diaper right before we get into the car and do anything else that I need to prepare him for sleep (example - remove socks, shoes, jackets, etc.).
Now, back to today. In an effort to prove myself a super-mom-motivated-business-owner-all-put-together-woman ... I MIGHT have over scheduled (just a little bit). I had an important phone call to make when I laid Cooper down at 1:00, and so I was in a bit of a hurry when we left the park just after 12:30. Soooooooo - I skipped the diaper change and the "nap prep." He didn't even seem tired at all, so I was pretty sure that he would make it the entire way home and not fall asleep. But, of course, I was wrong. About half-way home, someone in the back seat (*cough*ahem*cough*) was found to be peacefully trying to doze with the warm sun on his face and his lovey in his hands. That is when I became the mom who sings, dances, jiggles, and practically does back flips while driving, just to try and coax their toddler to stay awake. And just like that, I lost the battle and he was off to dreamland. That meant, as soon we were home, my generally easy to transfer sleeping toddler awoke as soon as his shoes and socks (which were full of playground wood chips - I kinda despise those things) were removed and was wide awake and ready to play by the time he got to his crib. Fast forward 30 minutes, he is still awake and playing by throwing his lovey from his crib; I go in to lay him down, tell him its time to sleep and hand him his lovey. Fast forward another 30 minutes; I am talking sternly to the baby monitor, as if he can hear me, and saying things like "If you think you are going to skip your nap today, you better think again mister!" Fast forward yet another 15 minutes; just as I start to consider the possibility of scratching the nap for now - which makes me want to punch a pillow or kick myself or maybe drop him off at grandma's house - my son lays down with his lovey and seems to drift off. Woo-Hoo!! I "WON"!! I feel like I am celebrating a sports victory (Yes - I am that obsessed with toddler sleep). Actually, I guess the good routine and sleep skills "won"; but I still count that a victory for me and for my son's sleep.
What I need to point out to myself is, even the so-called "experts" (yes I am an expert and I call myself one) need to admit their own faults. Although I would never advice a client or fellow parent to "test the nap limits" like this, I often find myself pushing those very boundaries so that I can give my son and I some very fun and meaningful experiences throughout the day. And of course, a time like this reminds me how important it is to respect the sleep needs of my child. Of course, there have been times that I planned on him falling asleep in the car on the way home from an outing (like coming back from Costa Mesa last week) that he surprised me and stayed awake on the entire car ride home. So he does keep me on my toes! Maybe I was slacking a little, and he decided that he needed to spend some time today reminding me. Well, I will not forget now - at least for awhile. Now that I have done some work and written this blog entry, I look over and he is still asleep. That's great news! Now I can go do the dishes .... or clean the downstairs bathroom ... or ... Maybe if he wakes up soon I will have an excuse to not do any of that house cleaning **sly smile**.