My Toddler Is Refusing To Nap, And I'm Freaking Out

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty

“What do you need?” I yell over my shoulder from my writing desk. My toddler, once again, is refusing to nap.

“I not tired,” she replies in her little, sweet voice. “You need to rest,” I hurl back, not-so-sweetly. I attempt to re-read the sentence where I left off only for my daughter to reply, clearly enunciating every word. “Mommy. I. Not. Tired.”

It’s been a few weeks of this, with no success. Every day around 1:30 p.m., I put a diaper on her, shut the blinds, and tuck her into bed. She’s quiet for a few minutes, no doubt teasing me. Then the circus begins. I know it’s completely useless to banter with a two-year-old, begging her to get some shut-eye so I can have just an hour of peace and quiet.

The attempts are futile. But I just keep trying, because I’m as stubborn as my baby. As much as she wants to give up her nap, I want her to keep it.

Her naptime is my serenity and sanity. I’m a work-at-home mom. My four kiddos are my everything, but sometimes I just need a moment to breathe, think, or better yet, not think. Naptime is my sole opportunity to write an article or get a chore or two done. I’ve been known to plop on the sofa and watch an episode of Good Girls while sipping hot coffee, my version of a coffee nap.

I’m desperate for my toddler not to surrender to a full day without rest. After all, our family’s mornings are rushed. After school is the epitome of chaotic. Weekends and summers can be joyful but are also quite challenging. My kids are just like me—they have an opinion about everything. And they express their opinions and feelings at the exact same time. Loudly. With no expiration dates.

I love how my kids feel that they matter, that their experiences and thoughts are worthy of discussion. They can ask questions. They can have bad days. They can celebrate victories. I’m honored to be their mom, their nurturer, their listener.

But I need naptime. Desperately.


One day I found my daughter standing in her bed, looming over four dolls that were doing the very thing she should have been doing—sleeping on her pillow. Ironically, my daughter was telling her dolls they needed to lay down and be quiet. And get this — she actually told her dolls they need to rest because “Mommy said so.”

She will do anything to get out of napping and no magical routine can put her to sleep. She needs a glass of water. Can I read her a story, please? There’s a speck of dirt on her sheet. She heard a scary noise. I forgot to turn on her fan. (No, I didn’t.) She will tattle on the giant, pink stuffed Peep she sleeps with, claiming it’s trying to wrestle her. Her favorite side of her fluffy blanket is wrong-side down.

I’ve tried instituting Quiet Time. Heads up, parents. Don’t have any hope in this working out. I will cut to the chase here. Quiet time was Mommy-0, toddler-1.

There is nothing quiet about the designated re-charging, muted time period. My toddler tells herself stories or sings “Old Town Road” (again) at epic volume levels. Perhaps she wants to be sure the neighbors and God can hear her.

She has also been known to chant “naughty words” she’s learned from her older siblings, daring me to pluck her from her mattress. Additionally, if crying out, “Mommmeeeee” doesn’t work the first twelve times, she switches it up, chirping, “Rach!”

When all else fails, she yells that she has to poop. Because she’s day potty trained and knows Mama doesn’t do poopy diapers. Claiming she needs to go potty is her golden ticket out of her room.

This is me, not winning.

My toddler’s naptime antics aren’t my first rodeo. I have four kids. In fact, my son was born when his older sisters were just two and four-years-old. Do the math. That’s three children under the age of four. My oldest was the stereotypical easiest child. She napped until kindergarten. My other two kiddos napped until they were around three years old.

So I had an expectation that I’d have at least have another six months before my daughter toyed with the idea of giving up on her afternoon sweet dreams session. What I didn’t plan for was her personality.

She hates missing out on the action. She will tell you she is two-and-a-half, but she struts around like she’s a tween. I’m convinced that FOMO is a real medical diagnosis, and my toddler certainly has it. Napping equates being left out. And she is not having it.

No nap also means that the witching hour, also known as dinnertime, is going to be twice as horrifying. An overtired tot is as fun to be around as the MAGA hat-wearing uncle at the family reunion. Parents, prepare yourself for battle.

I’m seriously having to work up the courage to face reality. I will no longer have a precious, midday hour in which no one will touch me, ask for a snack, or chant my name. I will not be able to quietly work on writing. My coffee will turn stone-cold. No more catching up on The Handmaid’s Tale while folding towels.

My name is Rachel, and I’m mourning the loss of my daily allowance of peace and quiet. I’m over here wondering, now what?

If I’m being honest, I’m also unamused that my youngest, my baby, is doing all these big kid things. Using the potty, speaking in entire paragraphs, spending her nights in a twin bed, and yes, giving up naps means I’m facing the reality that she’s growing up.

I know, I can’t have it both ways. She can’t be a baby and a big girl at the exact same time. Which means we’re in this period of transition. And it sucks.

There’s nothing to do but put my coffee mug in the microwave and head into her bedroom. She’s waiting for me, arms stretched upward, grinning wildly. I put her on my hip, plant a kiss on her cheek, and go get my coffee. Because that’s my option right now.

Because that’s motherhood.

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