We are on the verge of a major transition in our home.
For the last 14 years, we have had at least one child who needed an afternoon nap. In recent weeks, it is becoming clear that our youngest, Sam, may no longer need one.
As my three-year-old transitions into a big-boy schedule, we are forced to face the somewhat awkward reality that my 41-year-old wife has not yet dropped her afternoon nap.
Anne LOVES her afternoon nap. In retrospect, I think she may have adopted Sam and Ellie simply to extend the window that she has an excuse. At times I worry that she will try to adopt again just to insure that she can continue the façade that naptime is for the kids.
For the first several years of our marriage, I did not understand the “nap” thing. In my house as a child, adults did not nap. (My parents use to claim that they were taking a nap on Sunday afternoons, but I now believe that those locked doors were hiding a different activity… that I cannot think about any longer for fear of going blind.)
But in Anne’s house, napping was celebrated as the crowning jewel in each day’s schedule.
For example, Anne’s dad owned a very successful business. This afforded him certain luxuries… which included an office with a door that closed and a desk with a pillow underneath it. Like George Costanza from Seinfeld, my father-in-law often crawled under his desk and took a little afternoon nap. “It helps me think better,” he’d explain with a well-rested smile.
I recall weekends visiting her family before we were married. I’d leave the room for a bathroom break and come back to find every member of her family asleep on a different chair or couch. When I saw the same pattern repeated multiple times, I worried that they had fallen victim to some kind of collective narcolepsy.
But each time, they would wake up in extra pleasant moods, comparing the quality of their naps and encouraging one another with phrases like, “You must’ve needed it. ” I eventually stopped questioning it and bought an Xbox to fill the time.
And the sleepy apple did not fall very far from the tree. Anne has been taking an afternoon nap on as many days as possible since our honeymoon. (Insert… “It must not have been that exciting of a honeymoon” jokes here…and then I will insert “I do have six kids” as a retort… and then you respond with “But the last four were adopted”… Glad that we got that out of our system.)
Since mid-day naps are not as socially accepted outside of Pre-schools, Nursing Homes, and Latin America; Anne had to hide her secret love… until we had kids. And then there was a built-in “Get out of life free” card that could be cashed every afternoon. And over the course of six children and 14 years, it has become a staple in our house.
But interestingly, this mid-day ritual has evolved past the confines of the traditional nap. While Anne and at least one child still took naps each day, most of the older kids grew out of them. What they did not grow out of was the need (or requirement) for some kind of a mid-day break. For those not spending it on sleep, we call it “Quiet Time.”
(Side note: We are actively looking for a better name than “Quiet Time” since the current name evokes images of libraries and the Amish. Anne has experimented with sportier titles like “Half Time” or even biblical malpropisms like “Sabbath Time”… but nothing has displaced the “Quiet Time” moniker. I proposed calling it the “Hour of Power”… but then Anne informed me that she expanded it during the summer months to 90 minutes… because she is a genius.)
And over the last 14 years, I have changed from a Quiet Time skeptic to its most passionate advocate.
Some reasons are obvious. I mentioned that we have six children. Any period of time where all of them are required to be quiet is generally seen as a good thing.
But Quiet Time in our house is about much more than just “being quiet.” Quiet Time has been a time when my kids fell in love with reading. With no screens allowed, reading is the most common activity. (Yes, we bored our kids into a love of books.)
Quiet Time has also provided built-in time for them to explore their friendships with God. Our kids hear endless messages from grownups about the importance of prayer, Bible study, and worship, but QT has afforded them the necessary privacy and dedicated time to give it a real try. (For our extraverts like Adam, it may simply be because he spends much of Quiet Time praying it will end.)
And with eight different personalities in the house, Quiet Time is also a blessing to the introverts in our family. As much as I’ve fallen in love with the many upsides of large-family life, QT offers a rare reprieve from the omnipresence of siblings and parents. A time to regroup.
As I have watched this phenomenon for the last 20+ years, I have learned that the presence (or absence) of a break can also affect my outlook for the entire day. As tiring as it can be at times to run our large household, Anne and I know that we are never more than 5 or 6 hours from a break… and that makes all of the difference in the world. Sometimes the simple anticipation of a break is almost as valuable as the break itself. It makes the challenge of trying to be an engaged parent into more of a series of sprints than a marathon. I don’t need to be an intentional parent for the next 20 years… just for a few more hours.
Based on the data, I could argue that naps may be a catalyst for World Peace. My wife takes more naps than anyone I have ever met, and she is (perhaps not coincidentally) also the nicest person in the world. This may sound like hyperbole to those of you who have not met her, but I assure you that it is not. As evidence, I would cite her high school resume which included: Prom Queen, the “Good Citizen” Award for the city, and being voted “friendliest girl” by our high school class. Perhaps United Nations Peacekeeping envoys should travel with fewer tanks and more pillows.
As such, my wife has an incredible tolerance for even the most frustrating people and situations. I have seen her carry on a 35 minute conversation with the woman at McDonald’s who is taking our order to have the discussion end with Anne praying for the woman over a tray of cold fries. Yeah, she’s that kind of awesome.
And as nice as she is at the start of a nap, she is even nicer by the end… With one noted exception.
The aforementioned winner of “best personality” (yet another of her “she is really that nice” accolades from our youth) is nowhere to be found if someone makes the grave error of calling on the phone or knocking at the door during Quiet Time. In an almost Pavlovian response, I have seen this extraordinary woman break into sailor-grade profanity when the UPS man rings the doorbell during the Sacred Hour. We take Quiet Time seriously, and we expect everyone else in the world to do the same…
So while Sammy’s season of napping may be coming to an end, he will simply be transitioning like his siblings into the new world of the Quiet Time.
To be sure, he’ll fight the idea at first. But I hope that he’ll eventually embrace our family rhythm; perhaps even finding treasure in a reliable slice of time each afternoon for thinking, reading, dozing, dreaming, building, and pretending. I believe that through the years he will make friends with himself during that hour, and I pray more than any of it that the Quiet will create space for his adventure with the Friend of all Friends.
For me personally, I usually use it for a book or a movie or a game or two on the Xbox. And occasionally on a Sunday afternoon, Anne and I take a locked-door nap together… because she’s not the only one with family traditions. ..