I Will Do Damn Near Anything To Prevent A Car Nap

by Ashleigh Wilkening
Originally Published: 
A blue-eyed girl sitting in a car seat

That dreaded car nap. I hate it so much. Even a few short minutes of shut eye can wreak havoc to my day, maybe even the next.

Sometimes this is unavoidable due to a long car ride encroaching on my tot’s nap time. When we moved across country, yes, a car nap was necessary. Coming home from a family get-together well past his nap time and nowhere near home, a half hour siesta is welcomed to get us through until bedtime — better than nothing at all. But when we are so close to home and within an hour window of his nap, I go to battle to win the war of keeping him awake!

My child sleeps longer, better, and harder in the comforts of his own bed — not to mention it’s a better quality sleep. This is crucial for our day-to-day survival. We all know what happens to a toddler when they don’t get their nap or a shitty substitute. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

I protect my kids naps like my life depends on it and schedule around it whenever possible. They need it, and I need them to take it. They’ve always been great sleepers and sometimes willingly ask to go “night night.” We are a better functioning family unit with their nap routine in place. Their bodies are used to this predictable regimen, and I try my hardest not to mess with it.

With that said, I usually avoid longer than average car rides within the hour of nap time, but that’s not always possible. The lengths I will go to are endless in a desperate attempt to stop this from happening. Car naps are serious business and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Stage 1: While watching my son in the rear-view mirror, I see that yawning has commenced and is accompanied with some eye rubbing. Well aware of the dangers lurking if ignored, I engage my son in some deep conversation. I need to keep him interested and talking.

Did you have fun today? What was your favorite part? Don’t you love running errands with Mom? That little boy at the park sure picked his nose an awful lot, huh? What’s your favorite animal, color, day of the week?

Stage 2: Mild conversation isn’t working anymore and needs a little bit of extra intrigue to keep his interest. Time to call upon our good friend, technology. Some animated movie is now playing in our minivan. I also have offered my phone for his viewing pleasure. Recent family videos and pictures will help to pique his curiosity.

Oh, look at the picture of the giraffe we saw at the zoo 25 minutes ago! Watch this video of your brother opening up his birthday gifts. Remember the Easter egg hunt from a couple of months ago? No? Well, here’s a video to refresh your memory.

Stage 3: My son’s glossy eyes are now matched with heavy, drooping eyelids. Gotta kick it up a notch. Everything is so frickin’ exciting, I can’t control the volume of my voice.


Stage 4: Lights are on, but no one is home. His stare is now distant without any focus, and I can barely get his attention, even with me screaming at the top of my lungs. I dig in my purse to find candy, a toy, anything that will bring him back to consciousness. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a couple of rogue skittles mingling in the depths of my bag. If that doesn’t do the trick, rolling his windows up and down repeatedly will help to snap him out of his sleepy coma. I wonder what the cars next to us think when they see my son’s window go up and down and up again as they catch glimpses of his sleepy face only to disappear again once the window rolls back up. If they’re parents, they get it.

Stage 5: Wake. The. Fuck. Up! Nothing but the most extreme measures can stop him from entering a deep slumber at this point. I do what I have to do to prevent this from occurring. If my husband is driving, you’ll find me an inch from his face giving him kisses, making funny noises, singing, playing patty-cake with his hands. If I’m driving and by myself, I’m reaching behind my seat and shaking some limbs, tickling his feet, holding his hand with some gentle squeezes here and there to keep that blood flowing. Music is now blaring, and I’m singing at the top of my lungs.

After my last-ditch effort, nothing more can be done. If this fails, it’s over. My day is over. I might as well keep driving around in circles so he can sleep as long as his body will allow, which usually is a half-hour — even if his normal nap at home is an hour and a half to two hours in length. Regardless, the rest of the day is shot. I’ll be left with an irritable, crabby toddler who cannot be reasoned with. Meltdowns and tantrums are most certainly in my future. If I’m lucky, an early bedtime will undo this mess and we can start fresh tomorrow. If I’m not, this overtired beast will sleep like shit, wake up early, and I’ll be screwed tomorrow too. Fuck you, car nap!

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