Nap Time – One Mother’s Story of Survival

Study of a Sleeping Child

It's a beautiful thing

I had five children in less than eight years.  That’s over four years of being pregnant. That’s one or two in diapers for 10 years.  I used to joke that if you were born into my family, you took a daily nap from 1:00-3:00pm.  I really wasn’t joking – the nap was my life line.

Parents often comment that their little darling gave up their nap when they were two.

I usually smile sweetly and think, “That’s when you gave up their nap… not them.”

I have yet to meet a two-year-old who isn’t much improved by a daily nap.  Try this sociological study.  Take a trip to the local shopping mall any day at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I guarantee you will see at least one glassy-eyed screaming toddler accompanied by an exhausted and frustrated mother. Every one of my two or three-year-old kiddos bucked the nap rule at least once.  One little guy, my chief testing engineer, got up to wander the house every day for a week; needing a snack, a drink, to see what I was doing, etc… Don’t be fooled parents! They still need a nap.  Outlast them.  It’s for their benefit, not just your own.  It’s really good for a child to learn early that “just ’cause they feel it, don’t make it so.”   An excellent life lesson – easily taught when they are knee-high.  Not so easy when they are teens.

I had some selfish reasons for wanting this nap.  I was TIRED!! It’s hard work parenting little people, especially when pregnant.  Some days my date with the couch lasted 2 straight hours.

By the time the older ones really outgrew their naps, around five, they were in such a daily habit that we transitioned from sleeping to “alone reading” or art time, while the younger ones slept.   My kids shared rooms; three boys in one room and two girls in the other. Trying to entice your brother to join you in your “alone” time was not included in the rules.  You can guess who tested this rule … many times.

The best benefit of nap time?  My children had a happy mother for the other eleven hours of their day.

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Color Blind

I grew up playing with kids whose skin was a different color from mine. My kids grew up playing with kids whose skins were of different colors from theirs.  Some were adopted into their families, some came to their families by birth.

While explaining the concept of adoption to my young son, I referenced his playmate, a little girl who is very dark-skinned, adopted by two very white parents.

My son’s response:

“Ellie’s ADOPTED?”

Parents – it starts with us.

Over the Hill

Growing up in Sunnyvale, California, “Over the Hill” meant driving over the coastal range on Highway 17 to Santa Cruz.  Now that I am approaching another hill in my life, my memories of my sunny childhood and Santa Cruz bring a huge smile to my face.

 

Must do on the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk

  1. Forget that you are almost 50.
  2. Grab a big bag of freshly made salt water taffy and check out the crowd from the Sky Ride.
  3. Run for an outside-edge horse on the Merry Go Round so you can grab a ring, throw it in the clown’s mouth and ring the bell.
  4. Keep your hands up the whole time on the Giant Dipper and catch air on the little hills at the end.
  5. Bash some un-suspecting stranger from behind on the Bumper Car Ride and zip away before they see you and you have that awkward moment.
  6. Get a huge ice cream cone and sit in the sand to watch the free show at the Band Stand.
  7. Wash off in the ocean.
  8. Eat a greasy corn dog, dripping with mustard.
  9. Wash off in the ocean.
  10. Wade through the river and duck through the tunnel to the beach on the other side.
  11. See who can walk the longest in the hot sand before running for the water.
  12. Teach your kids to do the same

That Neighbor

Everyone’s got one – you know, that guy in the neighborhood who scares all the little kids. When I was growing up, it was Mr. Yetka.  He lived in a pink house by the orchard at the end of the street. He yelled at us kids if we were making too much noise, which was every Saturday.  We spent a lot of time sneaking around his fence, spying through knot holes.  He had a bad back and had constructed a weird contraption in his garage to stretch his neck.  He gave out apples on Halloween.  We called him Mr. Yucka.  My mother said he was perfectly nice – but we knew better.

When my kids were eleven, nine, seven, five and three, we out-grew our little house and purchased a bigger one in a neighboring town. Our new house had a gloriously big yard complete with a pond and woods.   Our five children became a big draw for the other neighborhood kids.  Each day, our house became a crazy hive of kids climbing trees;  kids building forts;  kids digging trenches;  kids racing bikes, scooters and skateboards;  dogs chasing kids;  moms yelling at dogs and kids.  Our new neighborhood was in transition.  Younger families were moving in and older couples, finished raising their families, were moving out to smaller, less labor-intensive homes.  The guy next door was two years from retirement.  Each morning, he got in his car and drove to the office, blissfully unaware of the riot one house to the north. This was about to change.

No sooner had he hung his “Thank You For All Your Hard Work” plaque on his wall when his serenity was shattered by the pandemonium next door. Though he occasionally offered a pained smile as we walked by his house in the evenings, he started to show signs displeasure. Out on the highway, the kids spotted him shaking his fist at our merging Land-Yacht from the safety of his Buick. I thought maybe the kids were mistaken, he was probably just waving.

A covert letter from “We Your Neighbors” materialized in our mail box. It detailed our dog’s daily bark at the mailman and included a copy of the city ordinance detailing nuisance dogs.   “We Your Neighbors” also reprimanded the family around the corner for their ugly lawn art.  Suspicious.  Later that summer, while mowing his lawn, the guy next door made a lightning quick turn into the street with his John Deere, running one of our kids into a hedge.  He returned to his grass, but not before the bike-riding boy spotted a triumphant smirk on his face.  Dastardly.

Hens in Missoula, Montana

And then … The Chicken Affair.

My kids had three pet chickens, quiet hens, roosting in their play house.  By day, Peanut, Butter and Honey (named for their favorite sandwich) pecked around the yard eating wood ticks.  Occasionally, they performed their tick removal service for the neighbors to rave reviews. They laid one egg each day and obediently put themselves to bed at night. The best thing about our little hens was if you yelled CHICK CHICK CHICK out the front door, they would come at a run.  As far as pets go, they definitely out-ranked the dog by their obedience and productivity. The inferior dog had a tendency to escape our yard and show-up grill-side every time a neighbor flipped a burger. He was definitely the least popular pet on the block. Or so we thought.  One ominous day, a county sheriff knocked on our door to inform us that our chickens were in violation of a city code. We had one week to remove them from our property.  I asked the officer how they knew we had chickens since we live in an out-of-the-way neighborhood with no through traffic.  He said, within earshot of the kids, that a neighbor had called.  To this day, we have no idea which chicken-hating neighbor called the cops. The kids conducted a door to door survey, asking trick questions designed to trap the culprit.  The guy next door wouldn’t answer the door and thus his fate was sealed.  He became That Neighbor.

Determined to avenge their lost pets, my kids began to plot his demise.  On long road trips, they whiled away the hours dreaming of villainous tactics to drive him insane.

They made a water balloon sling-shot from some surgical tubing and a plastic funnel. I caught them attempting to lob water balloons into his swimming pool.

I intercepted two boys with a potato gun, made of PVC pipe, aiming to shoot potatoes at his house.

While working at a local food shelf, they acquired a large bag of candy-filled Darth Vader heads.  Apparently our cities’ hungry weren’t interested in this treasure so it ended up at my house. They contrived to place one Vader head ominously on his mailbox each day. Only their fears of electronic surveillance prevented this stealthy ploy.

Star Wars - Darth Vader

I'm watching you

One by one, their evil plans failed and eventually my kids grew up and went away to college.  The grouchy neighbor is finally enjoying his retirement, although I occasionally see a squirrely pack of grandchildren in his yard.  I suppose I should thank him for providing my children with many long hours of entertainment.  I’m sure they’ve done better in school as a result of their innovative and prolific scheming.  I’m reluctantly in his debt.