As you may or may not know, we are struggling with a 2-year-old at home who has decided all on his own that napping is not for him. Like a tiny alcoholic, he doesn’t see how his actions affect those around him. He is irritable, unpredictable and, at times, belligerent.
He doesn’t know that he has a problem, and refuses to admit that napping is necessary for someone his age. Much like someone who grieves for the loss of a loved one, my son goes through different stages to cope with not napping.
The first stage is denial. “I don’t need a nap” he will say. “I’m not tired. I slept enough already.” Sometimes he goes as far as to try to convince us that he has, in fact, already napped when he laid down for no more than 30 seconds.
The second stage is anger. He becomes angry at being told to nap and takes it out on anyone in his path. He marches around with his hands clenched up into two tiny fists. I fear that dogs suffer his wrath the worst. They are too slow and trusting to get out of his way. Toys will be thrown and tears will be shed as he lashes out in anger at all those who stand in his path.
The third stage is bargaining. Not with himself of course; but with us. He pleads to avoid napping like a criminal pleads for leniency. “I don’t need a nap, I will be good. I Promise. I won’t beat the dogs. Anything you want just please no nap.”
After all of this, there is inevitably a lull in the activity. A look of melancholy comes over my son’s face as he enters the fourth stage: depression. While in this stage, he can be found sitting quietly in our living room watching TV. He doesn’t eat, doesn’t talk and barely moves. When you try to interact with him, it is as if he doesn’t even hear you. He mutters soft, intangible things in between deep sighs. When we try to bring up the issue of not napping, he softly replies “sigh … well … I’m just not tired.”
Then at last we come to the final stage: acceptance. Only after much discussion does my son admit that he’s tired and that a nap would have been a good idea. He seems to finally understand that refusing to nap is the cause for all his problems. It’s the reason for his crankiness and anger. It’s the reason he doesn’t get along with friends and family anymore.
Unfortunately for us, he gets to this stage usually around 7 at night. He goes to bed early and rises the next morning like nothing ever happened; destined to make the same mistakes all over again.
Will he change his ways? It is still too early to tell. But I fear, like many parents dealing with the same issues, that the worst is yet to come.