26/06/2012 10:27 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Toddler Tales: The Blessed Nap

Toddler Tales: The blessed nap D escaping the cot at naptime...

Since I've become a mother, my parenting mantra can be summed up in one word: nap time.

Diana's naps - she was a good sleeper as an infant, and, luckily, continues to take one substantial nap in the afternoons even as she approaches the two-year mark - are what I credit for being able to work, being able to function without falling asleep myself and probably most importantly, my sanity.


Without D's naps, I would be a frazzled, overtired, irritable disaster (which, incidentally, is exactly what Diana is when she skips a nap).


Last week, Diana decided to forgo her afternoon nap on a few occasions, which prompted my husband to say: "Maybe now that she's getting older, she doesn't need to nap anymore."

This has to be one of the more unpleasant things he's said to me (this coming from a guy whose pet name for me - well, one of them - is "incompetent").

I know lots of parents have toddlers who don't nap, who never napped or who stopped napping very early on. And they cope and survive just fine. I am not as strong as they are. And, considering D goes to bed between 9 and 10 pm (so that she can spend some time with Daddy) and wakes up any time from 7 am, and runs what feels like a marathon equivalent in her waking hours, she needs all the extra sleep during the day that she can get.

It's not just that D's nap allows me an hour or two to get things done, whether that's work, laundry, prepping dinner, catching up on emails, or just lying on the sofa to recuperate from a morning spent running after D, Bolshy and (insert energy-depleting activity here). A tired, cranky D who's rubbing her eyes and stumbling around isn't exactly a toddler in command of anything. She's a child who needs to go to sleep.

Last week, D's nap avoidance ended with a hideous Friday afternoon of D convulsing in sobs, shaking with terror and screaming "No way" every time I suggested she try going back to bed (this is despite having falling asleep for 10 minutes in the pushchair and only waking up when I transferred her to her cot).

I think she was having night terrors (a kind of between sleep and consciousness nightmare for toddlers that apparently sometimes happens when babes are overtired) because she wasn't herself and she wasn't comforted by the usual things (mum, milk) which would normally calm her down.

After a couple of hours of trying and failing, and the arrival of a food delivery driver who left his crate (he had been so desperate to flee from the hysterical sobbing child who wouldn't let me put her down), I decided to give up on the nap and did what any good parent would do: I sat D down with an iPad and let her watch Paddington until she calmed down.

But because she'd missed the nap window, when she finally went to sleep later, she once again got the night terrors after about 20 minutes and was shaking and convulsing in fear. Even though she slept decently that night, she was still terribly exhausted the next morning.


So even if D thinks she's outgrown nap time, I beg to differ.


I am no longer a lunatic when it comes to her routine, and there is a lot more flexibility about when she can be put down for a nap (and I consider an hour-and-a-half a success now, whereas in the good old days, D would sleep for 2.5 hours plus), but even if D fights and resists, I am still going to keep trying to get her to bed. For both of our sakes.

Since D declared open warfare on me last week when she dropped the not-so-subtle hint that is The Art of War at my feet, I guess this is yet another one of our battles.

Considering she's napped twice since Friday and has been a delight otherwise, I think I'm winning.

So far.