Last Sunday, it was clear that Charlie needed a nap by about 9:30 am, and it was further clear that he had no interest. At face value, sure, I’m fine with just running around the house with him and playing cars until he eventually curls up in a ball on the floor and succumbs to his actual level of exhaustion. In practice, in addition to getting pre-nap fussy, he starts to lose control of his gross motor skills while increasing his propensity for risk. At this point, he basically becomes a pint-sized, drunken college kid. He’s crashing into walls while running laps, he’s falling off of tables while trying new dance moves, and he thinks he’s cool to drive.
I’ve got a couple go-to moves at this point.
1. “Yeah, bro, get all that energy out. I’ll turn up the music and dance with you. Then you’ll be tired!” Much like going out on the dance floor is not putting Fratty Joe down for a nap, I don’t recall this strategy having ever worked.
2. Laying down and nursing. 85% of the time, a tired Charlie who starts to nurse is in a deep slumber within 15 minutes. This is a huge factor contributing to extending breastfeeding to 22 months. He doesn’t show any interest in weaning yet, but since this is the magic trick that lets us all have some quiet lie-down time, I’m ambivalent about initiating that process with much rigor on my end. 15% of the time, though, he’ll nurse and then get up and run around like a crazy boy (lately with the addition of yelling “Cray-see! Cray-see! Cray-see!”).
3. A snack. Maybe he’s too hungry to sleep. Let’s all have some carbs.
4. Soothing children’s television. This time I tried Jim Henson’s Pajamimals, which I’d seen two episodes of and didn’t hate. It had some catchy songs about teeth-brushing. It’s about some young Muppets who get ready for bed, face and overcome bedtime challenges, and then sleep soundly through the night. It should be the plot to every television show available to children until they hit middle school. We watched Pajanimals while Charlie jumped on the bed yelling “Cray-see, cray-see, cray-see Jam-mools!” At this point, we’ve been prepping for nap time for three-and-a-half goddamn hours.
5. Modeling desired behavior. Now that I’ve sweat through a dance party, laid down in bed to nurse (which according so science, has a soporific effect on all parties involved), eaten some carbs, laid back down and watched a Pajanimals marathon about how to get ready for sleepy time, I’m pretty spent. And sleepy. So very sleepy. I’ll just rest my eyes a minute.
6. Head injury. Charlie can only hop on the bed with his drastically reduced motor skills so many times before he falls on his head. I wasn’t quite with it enough to make an effective catch.
7. Cry it out. It’s tiring to cry.
8. Comfort nurse. Mom and toddler fall soundly asleep in less than a minute, with The Pajanimals playing on a Netflix loop.
So that’s the simple trick for getting your fussy toddler down for a nap in less than a minute.
Let the record show that I’m now on Day 7 of having the Pajanimals theme song stuck in my head.
A hard-fought victory.