I am always hesitant to disclose this, because it makes people angry and jealous, and those aren’t fun or healthy emotions, but my daughters — now five years old — still nap. OK, not always. But every day we have a 45 minute “Quiet Time” after lunch, and about one third to one half the time, one or both of the girls actually fall asleep.
Even when they don’t sleep, though, Quiet Time is pretty awesome, and if you don’t do it, I highly recommend it. (Although it’s probably hard to implement if you haven’t been doing it all along, as an evolution of naptime). It works like this:
We read the girls a story, set our magical, mystical, light-up clock for 45 minutes, and then have one of them go into our bedroom while the other stays in their room — this is key to effective quiet time — and make ourselves scarce. (Usually by catching up on email or work or the like downstairs.)
The girls are free to read books, draw, play or whatever. As long as it’s not loud, e.g. blasting tunes on her old salvaged-from-the-trash kids’ Sony tape player, as Elsa likes to do, or practicing being a rock star with her toy microphone, as Clio is inclined toward lately. The only rule is that they have to stay in their rooms until the clock turns yellow. And usually they do a pretty good job of it.
Quiet time has gotten a whole lot better since the girls have become able to take care of their own bathroom needs, too. For a while, we were pretty sure Clio was holding it all morning so she could go (and sometimes go multiple times) smack in the middle of Quiet Time, thus interrupting our important Facebook activity. Now, while they still usually like to announce that they’re going to go Number 1 or Number 2 (because we’re just dying to know, you know) they take care of the rest on their own.
But lest anyone think we enforce quiet time only for our own selfish purposes (see “Facebook,” above), it really does help the girls to have that down time. On days when they’re in school until 2:00 and as a result don’t have it, we definitely notice the difference in their moods.
Honestly, I think we all should have quiet time. Like, our whole society. I don’t know about you, but my mental and physical energy is at its lowest ebb right after lunch. And on the (extremely) rare occasions that I do take a quick catnap after lunch, I feel so much better. I think the countries where an early afternoon nap is common are onto something. It’s such a civilized ritual.
But to make this part of routine workaday culture in the US (nap rooms in the workplace?) would be akin to getting us to switch to the Metric system — i.e., so not gonna happen, even though it makes all the sense in the world. Unless we mount a movement. Anyone wanna mount a movement? But then there wouldn’t be time for siesta… Movements are so time-consuming.
I, of course, actually could implement a semi-regular siesta, since I’m self-employed. But do I? No. Because there’s always something I could/should be doing. This is how we think in a non-siesta-ing culture. It’s what we are taught to do. (Or not do.) And soon — starting in Kindergarten, probably — it’s what the girls will be taught, too.
The poor things. But in the meantime, Viva La Siesta!
By the way, I wrote a piece over on Salon about my feelings re. fertility treatments, if you want to check it out: Was I Selfish To Have Fertility Treatments?
DOUBLE TIME, my memoir of parenting twins and battling depression (among other things) is now available for pre-order!