It seems like all parents have their "thing." You know, the one rule they won't bend on. For some, it's important that their children eat all organic; others might require their children to spend a certain amount of time doing schoolwork each day. But my "thing" has always been sleep. Ever since my first was born, I wanted to be sure that he eventually got on a sleep schedule. And once his little sister arrived, I was determined that she was going to get adequate sleep, too. Getting my children to bed early was an important part of this, but so was regular naptime. In fact, I still make my kids nap, even now that they're older.
As parents, we know our kids; we know their needs and how they operate. Both of my kids — especially my oldest — require a lot of sleep. They always have and likely always will. Without it, they're cranky, throw far more tantrums for no particular reason, and require an even earlier bedtime. So I still make my almost 7- and 5-year-old nap nearly every day. My first-grader can't nap throughout the school week, of course. But on the weekends, I'll make sure he goes down. Between soccer or basketball games, I send him to rest in his room and he almost always falls asleep. It's an opportunity for him to recharge from the rigor of his schoolwork and activities, and he wakes up completely refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.
This Summer, I'll continue this midday tradition. After a run through the sprinklers followed by lunch, I'll dry the kids off and deposit them into their beds. This will give their bodies the rest they need to get back outside and play the evening away. And I'll get them to oblige by telling them they can stay up later during the Summer months. A little bribery never hurt anyone, right? Because without that daily nap, I know my kids will crash . . . hard. All of that fresh air and extra play tires their little bodies out. They simply need the time to rejuvenate.
Many people think it's weird that I still require my kids to take a nap. My friends make fun of me to my face, saying that I'm "soooo strict." While I accept the jokes, I do know what my kids need — even if others think they've outgrown their nap. Some of my friends even suggest, "Why don't you just call it 'quiet time?' The kids can go into their rooms for an hour and fall asleep if they want to."
To that I easily respond, "No. I know that they need sleep so I'm going to continue calling it naptime."
I find it slightly mind-boggling that so many friends and family are concerned that I still have my kids take a nap. Of course, we skip naps when necessary (and sometimes when we just don't feel like napping). When we're on an adventure or attending a midday party, I let the nap slide. But overall, I'll continue to parent my kids with their needs in mind, not by any one else's idea of what's right for them — just as I hope all other parents do. We should all feel empowered to do what we think is right for our kids. Will I continue to require my kids to nap until they're 10? Probably not. But I do know that I want them to nap as long as their bodies need it.