Dear Baby: 32 Minutes Is Not A Nap

by Melissa Bowers
Originally Published: 
baby sleep
Oleksii Khmyz

You’ve heard the popular suggestion, “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” right? Or maybe not—I don’t know. You’re only 4 months old. Well, trust me (I’m your mother, after all), that’s what everyone recommends.

But see, this 32-minute thing you’re trying to masquerade as a “nap” doesn’t really allow for much simultaneous sleeping. I’m not one of those people who can close her eyes and immediately pass out—that’s your father’s department. And since it always takes approximately 31 minutes to think about what we should eat tomorrow, and if we will ever scrub the permanent marker off your sister, and whether or not I should have done that thing when I was in college, that leaves 60 seconds before you open your eyes. Yes, Mommy was an English major, but there’s your first math lesson.

On second thought, forget sleeping. Once you drift off to Baby Dreamland, there are things to do. Let the dog out. Shower. Sanitize your teethers/the floor/anywhere your spit-up has landed. At some point, I need to shove a little food into my own face, and really, someone should probably fold the eight loads of laundry that keep accumulating on the bed. Can you give me 90 minutes? An hour, even? I would like to eat something other than cheese slices.

I know every baby is different, but dude, your sister took two-hour naps anytime, anywhere, and when we signed up for a second child, we sort of hoped for more of the same. This is relatively manageable! we thought back then. Suckers. Parents are allowed a maximum of one child who sleeps—look it up, it’s in the rule book—and our quota has apparently been met.

When those telltale shadowy circles first bloomed beneath my eyes, several people insinuated I was doing something wrong. “He should be in a routine by now,” they said. “You just have to make him sleep.”

Ah, yes. Make you sleep! Why hadn’t I thought of that? For the love of all things good and holy, there had to be something I could do to extend your naps.

I read about white noise, so there is a heavy-duty fan in your room set to turbo speed and a high-volume app that mimics the hum of an aircraft.

I read about silence, so I turned those things off for a few days. You were awakened by the garbage truck, the clothes dryer, and the gentle mew of an outdoor cat. You slept for 20 minutes instead of 32.

I read that you might prefer to be close to me instead of placed in your crib, so I held you while you dozed. Turns out, 32 minutes was all the closeness you needed. Thanks.

I read about motion, so I strapped you into your car seat and drove for miles—aimless and determined—and when you woke up, we were 32 minutes from home.

I read about timing, so I scrutinized your face to detect the exact instant your eyelids drooped. These things are imperative: “Do not put him down too early,” they said. “Do not put him down when he is overtired,” they said. “There is a window,” they said. Well, little man, I still haven’t cracked your personal “window of wakefulness” code, but I can predict the precise moment those droopy eyes of yours will pop back open. I’ll win that bet every time.

Okay, look, being a baby is a tough gig, I’m sure. Your dark cozy womb has vanished, you can’t control your own head, and teething is a bitch. I’m on your side, kiddo, I really am, but I’m gonna need more than a 32-minute respite to muster up the appropriate amount of sympathy.

So until then, I’ll be the one in line at the grocery store, feverishly rocking your covered stroller back and forth as we approach that crucial half-hour mark. I’ll be the one cringing and trying desperately to avoid eye contact as you peer around the canopy, because once you see me, it’s all over.

And then, when you break into a smile, I’ll be the one reminding myself how lucky I am.

It’s a good thing you’re so damn cute when you’re awake.

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