Whatever You Do, Don’t Wake My Sleeping Kid!

by Wendy Wisner
kids sleep
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Yep, I’m that mom who’s a total hard-ass when it comes to her kids’ sleep. My day is structured around their naps, and I hate getting home too late for bedtime. If I get invited to something that happens around naptime, I’ll start to fume inside, wondering why the world can’t simply revolve around my kids’ sleep schedules.

I’m kidding, but only a bit. The truth is, having consistent nap and bedtimes makes everyone in my family happier. My kids thrive on the routine of it, and they need a decent amount of sleep every day or they turn into mini-demons. Some kids can skip sleep, and then just get drowsy and lethargic. But if mine skip it, they only get more wound up and crazy.

My kids won’t fall asleep in the middle of the hustle and bustle of life. I’ve seen those kids who can do that: They will be sitting with their parents at the diner, museum, or park, and just kind of curl up somewhere and sleep whenever the need arises. My kids were not born with that gift. They would never voluntarily go to sleep. And when I finally convince them to sleep, they need a dark, distraction-free place to fall asleep and stay asleep.

I know there’s a bunch of sleep advice out there that stresses the importance of getting your baby used to a noisy environment so that sleep can happen anywhere. Perhaps I should have tried that more when my kids were little. But maybe my kids are just hyper little beasts who can’t shut out the world when they’re tired. Maybe I breed light sleepers. Whatever the case, that’s just how they’ve always been, so I’ve learned to just go with it.

And it’s not just about them — their sleep time is for me. When they sleep is when I rest or work, and I need that time as much as anyone else. I deserve it. Being a mom is damn hard; there are few breaks, and the ones that I get are sacred to me. I know that life can’t stop just so my kids will sleep, and I’m somewhat flexible about it all, but if it were up to me, nothing would ever get in the way of my kids’ sleep. Nothing.

I thought I would relax about these sorts of things as I become a more seasoned mom — and I have become more relaxed about a lot of parenting stuff as the years have gone by — but nine years in, I’m still pretty rigid about sleep routines. My first child was done with naps by 2 ½, but my second child is 3 ½ and still takes a daily nap (ain’t nothing going to come between him and that nap).

Just yesterday, the gas company came to read the meter, which is located in the room my son was sleeping in. As soon as I heard the knock on the door — we have no working doorbell, thank god — I leapt up. When I opened the door, I saw that it was a different representative than the one I usually have (the one who knows to come early in the morning before my son naps). This poor guy was standing there, sweat dripping down his face. But I had to turn him away because naptime is a holy event in my house, and nothing is going to mess with it.

When I asked the guy if he could come back sometime later because my kid was napping, he said “sure” and chuckled. “Happens to me all the time,” he said. “Kids need their naps!”

I breathed a sigh of relief because maybe I’m not the only crazy one, and I realized that all these years I’ve harbored some stupid guilt about being such a strict sleep-time enforcer. But you know what? I’m done feeling guilty. My kids need their sleep, I need them to be well-rested, and I need the time while they sleep to get shit done.

So get this, world: My son takes a nap every day at 1 p.m. Please don’t mow your fucking lawn right outside his window then. Don’t loudly bang on my front door. And to my big kid: Keep your nose in a book, play video games (with the damn headphones on), or go play outside, but don’t come running up to me screaming for a snack. Whisper, tiptoe, do what you need to do to keep things absolutely silent.

Hush! Hush, the baby’s sleeping.

Wake him up, and I’ll cut you.