My toddler takes his afternoon nap by falling asleep in the car. Usually it takes about 20 minutes of riding in the car seat for him to finally surrender. Driving around for nap today, I keep getting writing ideas and turn into the parking lot at every municipal park that we pass to jot down notes on the phone. At least I’m not trying to do it while driving. But the frequent stopping to type a few sentences is throwing off the rhythm of the car ride, and it’s keeping him awake. “Oh! This one!” he says when we pull in somewhere else. “Ok! Go out!”
“Sorry honey, Mommy just needs to write some more words down. We ‘ll come back here and get out another day.” He’s supposed to be asleep by now anyway, dammit. The baby is dutifully snoring in his car seat, why can’t the two-year-old just forget about the choo-choo train and about going over railroad tracks and just go the fuck to sleep already so I can get down my ideas before I forget this brilliant turn of phrase about the beautiful things he did today?
Twenty minutes stretches into forty, then sixty. Still no sleeping two-year-old. Now I have to pee, so I start heading back toward the house, thinking maybe he’ll close his eyes by the time we pull in the driveway. He asks for “Snowman again” each time Frosty ends on the Raffi Christmas CD. This is not a good sign– he’s too aware of his surroundings to be asleep three minutes from now.
As I pull in and turn off the car, I’ve accepted the fact that nap time isn’t happening and we’re going back inside. I’m steeling myself for a late afternoon with a toddler who didn’t-quite-nap. Ok, I got this. I’m putting the phone away and I’m going to be fully present with my children, who miss Mama and are tired and hungry. “I have to go pee, honey. I’ll be right back.” I jump out of the car with the keys, my bladder exploding and put all I’ve got into my post-perineal-tear Kegels.
“No! My turn go peepee!” I hear him say as I close the car door. Not a chance, kid. I flash him a sweet I Love You smile and unlock the front door.
I pee alone, and in silence.
Ok. I’m ready for this nap-free afternoon. Let’s do this. I go back outside and take out the baby in his car seat, still snoring. I carefully set the car seat in his crib, and go back for the no-napper. “No! I do it!” he whines as I slide open his door. I reach for his car seat buckles. “NO! I DO IT!”
“Oh. OK,” I say. I know what this means. This means that he really does want to go to sleep but he really doesn’t want to go to sleep, and if I unbuckle his car seat, he is going to flip his shit and everything is going to be the wrong thing for him for the next four hours. Poor guy. I’m not going to let that happen to either one of us, so back in the car we go. I turn around and go back inside to get the baby, still snoring, and gingerly re-click him into the car.
“Yes, honey. Back in.” As I start the car he looks longingly to the front door.
“Hoooome” he whimpers.
“I know, you want to go home.” I turn off Frosty as we get to the stop sign. No talking, no music. He’ll be asleep halfway through our usual loop. I check his drooping eyelids in the rear view mirror. The next red light is particularly long, and I listen to his breaths getting deeper over the traffic noise. I flick on my right turn signal. We’re going home.
I get a full hour of writing time sitting in the parked car in the driveway, the soft sounds of two boys in slumber the only background noise. Miracle. Eventually the baby stirs. We transfer inside, the no-napper still asleep as I slowly lower him onto his bed with all my love and tenderness. In that moment he embodies all the fleeting, fragile miracles in the world, and I am full of gratitude.