Confessions of a Manic Mom: Frustrated with the Boy

I’m very frustrated with Lucas today. He wouldn’t nap again.

He is trying really hard to give up his naps. I’m told that this is pretty much on schedule; usually kids give up naps sometime between 3.5 years old and 5 years old. But honestly, I’m just not ready for him to stop napping. I need that time to clear my head, to think about other important things, to work and earn money, to have some quiet. Lately he chatters incessantly and won’t give me a moment’s peace! He wants a witness for his play and an audience for his stories (unless he’s singing. Then he wants me not to hear him). I need those naps!

I’ve taken to performing a super-elaborate ritual to maximize the chances that he’ll sleep. I pick him up from school. He gets to eat a snack in the car on the way home. I don’t give him juice before nap. He is allowed to play for an hour at home, to acclimate to his home space and to work out some feelings about his day at school. Then I provide warnings: Naptime is in 15 minutes. I supervise his trip to the bathroom and change his clothes: he gets a pull-up and soft, clean pants to wear. I give him soy milk. I gather his favorite stuffed bears and Tidoo. I read two or three stories, depending on which ones he picks and how long they are. We lie down in my bed together. We snuggle. I let him put his hand down my shirt to touch my “so-soft warm skin.” I close my eyes and breath rhythmically. I try to settle him down with soft words, with loves, with back rubs. I’m often in there for a half-hour or more.

Sometimes all of this works beautifully. He goes to sleep and naps for 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Often I fall asleep too, but only for about 10 minutes or so. Then I carefully extricate myself from his grasp and tip-toe out of the room. I then rush to my computer and work for as long as he stays asleep.

Sometimes his wiggling and talking never stops. He cracks jokes; he pinches. He slaps me. Sometimes I whack him back and then feel like shit. Nothing makes me madder than this little game of his. I tell him that if he doesn’t settle down, he’ll lose his opportunity to sleep with mommy and will have to go to his room. If I get to the threat phase, I’ve usually already lost the battle. Then it becomes a matter of saving face, of staying in control, of following through on my promises, of not letting him be a shit and immediately get to do what he wants. I hate this part of being a parent. It sucks.

So, off we march to Lucas’s room. I put him in his bed. He usually fights me, and jumps up immediately. I leave the room and close the door. He tries to get out. I hold the door closed. Now I’m standing in the hallway, engaged in a battle of wills and unable to work anyway. So I set the timer and tell him he can come out in a half-hour, as long as he stays in his room for that time. Sometimes that works. Sometimes he howls with rage, begs for me to come to him, promises to be good, bangs on the door, and tries to break free.

I try really hard not to let the situation escalate to this level. And I try to bring it back down as rapidly and painlessly (for both of us) as possible. Today I tried to smooth the situation by keeping my voice calm and not shouting and by putting some soothing music on in his room, hoping that he would stop arguing and just stay in there. I just needed him to do the time, at that point. Clearly, a nap was out of the question.

The consequence of not napping is a bedtime that is an hour earlier than the normal bedtime. But the consequence is so far removed in time from the behavior, that he hardly notices. I hope that will change as he matures, however.

I’m making mistakes, I know that. I’m giving him too much attention before nap, and he has developed sophisticated means and techniques for maintaining our engagement, stretching out the time more and more. But honestly, I don’t really know what to do. I had better figure it out though—he is only going to grow bigger.

I’m really frustrated right now, so I’m not really looking for suggestions or for someone to try to solve this problem for me. I already know that I’m fucking up. Something has to change.

4 Responses to “Confessions of a Manic Mom: Frustrated with the Boy”

  • pirategrrl
    March 29, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    No suggestions here, but I don’t think you are fucking up, for what it’s worth. It’s a difficult situation. You’ll work it out, you’re a really good mom.


  • childofeos
    March 30, 2006 at 1:44 am

    Have a cookie and kudos because you are activly trying to help yourself. I unfortunetly have no ideas to help you with but I do think you are beating yourself up too much over this.

    *sending you thoughts of clairty, comfort and peace*


  • dakini_grl
    March 30, 2006 at 10:44 am

    I think fscking up is kind of strong language for what you’re doing. I don’t think you are. You’re trying to get a little peace, it’s all a negotiation, and you can see a lot of sides to what’s happening, and you know some day nap time will end. And you’re right, it’s all a moving target.

    I wonder what the heck could be done about moving the consequence closer to the behavior. I’m stumped.


  • flonkbob
    March 31, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    I’m with dakini_grl, you’re not fucking up at all. He’s a kid, they do this. Just remember, you MUST win if you get into a battle of wills. One loss negates a dozen wins or more. Don’t make threats you can’t follow through on…

    And there’s nothing wrong with saying “You don’t have to sleep, you DO have to stay in your room quietly for an hour.” My kids got used to it (no, not immediately) and eventually liked the time to sit and read or play quietly in lieu of actual napping.


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