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MY WORD: The Power of the Nap

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As a “second shift” parent – an older adult who is now parenting a second family – I am rediscovering the joys of parenthood, as well as the occasional frustrations. 

Young children take a lot of time, patience, attention and energy. When you are dealing with two children under the age of three, these resources can seem to be in short supply.  This supply and demand problem is further complicated because the kids are seldom on the same page.  Most of the time their needs are in direct opposition.

For example, the moment the younger child is with the doctor having a well baby check is the exact moment the older will have the most urgent need to potty – even though we just made a preemptive visit to the facilities. 

And since turnabout is fair play, while the older child is in the dentist chair – and stressing out about it – is the exact moment the younger will fill their diaper to capacity, and then some. When the younger child is hungry, the older wants to play.  When the younger wants to be held and comforted, the older child wants to be read to.  They rarely have the same agenda at the same time.

But there is an event that saves you from the divergent needs of two toddlers -the nap.  When one child is napping you actually have time to give the other some personalized attention, some quality one-on-one time.  And there is that rare occasion when both will take a nap at the exact same time.  This communal nap always occurs by accident. But when it does happen, you seize the opportunity to make an uninterrupted phone call, to pay bills, or maybe even grab a nap yourself.

There is power in the nap. 

It refreshes, restores and refocuses.  In fact, even big business is getting on board with the nap. USA Today reporter Michael L. Diamond shared in a March 2013 article that a major New Jersey Investment firm remodeled an unused closet with a recliner, a fountain, and a bamboo rug to create a nap room.  Employees are offered the opportunity to sign up for twenty minutes of “restorative time” twice a week. The firm took this step in response to what some health experts call the epidemic of worker fatigue among American businesses. 

Fatigue impacts the overall general health of the workforce in that many workers turn to unhealthy habits to combat fatigue – i.e. sugary snacks, excessive caffeine consumption, etc.  Worker fatigue also impacts productivity and safety in the workplace.

Diamond’s report continues by outlining how this firm is not alone in addressing the issue.  He notes that a number of “nap salons” have opened in major cities offering workers the opportunity to take a good nap during their lunch hours.

As a “second shift” parent I have discovered a power in the nap that extends beyond productivity.  Our older child is very verbal and is at that stage where he wants to do everything himself, his way.  He is busy testing his skills and our boundaries. He finds it strange that we fail to appreciate his artistic expression on the bedroom wall, or his creative use of eating utensils – after all, why shouldn’t a sticky fork be used to tame that pesky cowlick. At times, when he lays down for a nap he is not happy with us. Our lack of appreciation for his creativity and problem solving has left him frustrated with us.

But here is what’s great about the nap.  No matter how mad our toddler may be when he lies down, when he wakes up all is forgiven and forgotten. The nap magically erased the frustration and resentment he had for us cramping his style. The nap served as a complete reboot, a fresh start, and now we are best friends again. 

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul advises Christians “not to let the sun go down on their anger” (Ephesians 4:26).  I have often heard this verse interpreted to mean that we should make every effort to resolve conflict each day rather than letting animosity build.  Although is a worthy goal for us in our relationships, I now wonder if maybe my toddler has a better understanding.

When he awakens from a nap he has no interest in taking up a previous grievance.  He does not want to rehash an argument; he’s moved beyond the conflict and wants to focus again our relationship, not the problem.  That approach has been a powerful lesson to me.  As adults we so seldom follow his example.  Like the proverbial elephant, we never forget.  We nurse our grievances for days and weeks, sometimes for years.  Think how much better your relationships would be if each day you started fresh in a renewal of your love, respect, and appreciation for those in your life.

I’m not advocating denial in our relationships. I know relationships can be complex and sometimes differences are not easily resolved. Sometimes issues require much thought and conversation.  But I think even if we must have protracted discussions about an issue we will always be better suited to come to some consensus if we do so from the starting point of renewed relationship.  We are more likely to resolve differences from the foundation of renewed love for each other than in anger and resentment.

As a parent there are many things I hope I can teach my child about life that will prepare him to live it well.  However this is a lesson he has taught me.  I can be a better husband, father, worker, family member, and friend, if I allow my love for others to be renewed as I awaken each day. Chances are good I will sleep better too. 

Following my toddler’s example, I’m going to make the effort each day to refresh my relationship to those in my life.  I’m going to focus on my love and commitment to them, not the disagreements or differences we may have.

There is power in the nap.  The next time your spouse disappoints you, your children frustrate you or your coworkers annoy you, don’t get mad, don’t get even, take a nap.  Wake up determined to be refreshed in your relationships and committed to living and working in peace with those God has brought into your life.  This is how my toddler lives and it is an approach to life I hope he never outgrows.  It is an approach I hope he will always see modeled in me.

When I began as a “Second Shift” parent I thought I had a lot of life experience that could benefit a child needing a parental figure.  Although this may be true, it is amazing to me how much I learn every day as I attempt to nurture and love these kids that have been brought into my life. Anyone who would like to explore the possibility of becoming a “Second Shift” parent need only call the Department for Community Based Services (633-2055) to discuss the options.  “Second Shift” parents need not be perfect; they only need to be willing to love a child and to provide to the best of their ability.  An added benefit is sometimes, you get to take a guilt free nap.

 

Rev. Allen Clark lives in Shelbyville