Nap time good for baby, good for dad

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Aug. 15, 2013

Nap time good for baby, good for dad

When we were new parents and the baby would fall asleep in the car, I’d carry him and his car seat inside the house, careful not to jostle him, careful not to slam the door, careful not to wake him at any cost — and I’d place him on the clothes dryer and turn it on.

Full or not, I’d turn it on regardless of the energy cost just to keep that slight movement and sound, some semblance of a still-moving car.

We lived in Midtown then, and if you live in Midtown you know that there is a train rolling within five blocks of any house at any time. We had a crossing half a block away and when that whistle would blow I’d stand in front of the baby in his seat on the dryer with my arms outstretched as though my body could absorb the sound of the whistle and keep it from entering his tiny, precious, sleeping ears.

And that’s how I would spend most nap times, trying desperately to keep him from waking up.

As an older and somewhat wiser parent, I know that there is still no better time than nap time; my own nap time.

I never understood why babies need all the naps anyway, they don’t do anything. They wake up and have food put in their faces, then they just lie around. They don’t even have to get up and go to the bathroom. Yet their big, curious eyes are as tired in the middle of the day as my 43-year-old eyes are now.

As an adult, I don’t call it a nap. My mother called it “resting her eyes.” What a wonderful euphemism. I always thought it had a genteel, almost Southern sensibility about it like “putting on airs” or “bless her heart” or “losing one’s religion.” We all know what it means, there’s no need to admit to it.

I try to rest my eyes every afternoon. I find that if I can just lie down on the couch in my office and close my eyes for just 10 minutes, then it makes the rest of the day —and me — more pleasant. My children will attest to that.

These eyes are tired. They spend all day looking. I look at books and magazines and documents. I look at the Internet on a laptop, tablet and phone. Last week, much of my time was spent looking at forms and packets my kids brought home to be signed for the new school year. And the kids, they want me to look at whatever they’re doing any time they’re around.

So I’m tired and I only want to rest my eyes, there’s no shame in that. There is shame, however, in falling asleep in your mashed potatoes at the dinner table.

Look, you’re tired, I know that. It’s why I recommend to all you new parents that you use your child’s nap time as an opportunity, not to do the dishes or laundry, not to watch television or Facebook, but to rest your eyes.

Just try it and you’ll see what I mean.

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