This is Pen Elaine while watching the beginning of “High School Musical” for the very first time. I secretly love those movies and own all three, which is saying something in this day when we don’t own very many movies since they are available to stream so easily. I remember when a friend who started having kids about the same time told me that her cutie pie loved watching the Disney channel movies, and I looked forward to how fun it would be when I got to watch the HSM with my own little one. So, we watched maybe the first 15 minutes together one day for a special lunch picnic treat but have yet to watch the rest. We have been catching up on some classic kid/Disney movies this summer, with the less structured days and the fact that she no longer naps, and I have finally accepted and resigned myself to that fact.
No longer having nap time means no longer having time to myself during the day, and that has been a big adjustment for me. It may have been a difficult transition for me because it happened simultaneously with the adjustment from 1 to 2 kids or maybe because it happened simultaneously with my postpartum hormones still getting themselves in order, but ultimately, I think it required a “transition” for my heart. Nap time had become “me time” that I felt entitled to having for myself. When kids are little or preverbal or have one or two nap times, it makes sense to separate kid time and adult time, and when I wanted to complete tasks or projects, I entertained my little one in one way while I “entertained” myself in a separate way. Here’s my #TBT photo of Pen Elaine hanging out in the exersaucer while I was working on some sort of craft project. She was having beneficial, independent play time while I was having beneficial, independent craft time. Nap time was also an opportunity for mutually beneficial time of separate activities that brought us each joy in our own ways. So, the end of nap time marked a rite of passage for both of us, mother and daughter, because it marked the end of having so much time for separate interests and marked the beginning of my daughter blossoming into a tiny person who could share in my joys instead of simply being entertained by something else while I completed them.
Now, I am learning to not simply see giving up nap time as giving up “me” time but now it’s an opportunity for “us” time, just my daughter and me. We get to share our joys, and I get to cultivate a little person to appreciate some of the beauty in life that I appreciate. Sometimes, that means completing an exercise tape together. If there’s a craft project that I’ve been wanting to work on, then we figure out a way to work on it together…or at least have two versions of the same basic activity.
My Honey has been embracing this rite of passage in our daughter in his own way. Pen Elaine went through a phase of waking up extra early, so we tried using a toddler clock that lit up an “awake” bunny picture when it was “morning time” and appropriate for getting up, trying to enforce a minimum wake-up time. This worked for a while, but then she started waking up early again and wanting to come see what Daddy was up to in the morning. My Honey would be up getting his coffee going and preparing for some personal Bible reading and devotional. Instead of continuing to enforce and try to “train” Pen Elaine to stay in her room, during the time when he typically has some quiet time reading the Bible on his own (while letting me have some quiet space for my own meditation on Scripture in the morning…unless I was up with Snuggly Man too much in the night and fell back asleep…), he started having “quiet time” WITH Pen Elaine. He embraced this fleeting phase and included her in his joy of spending early morning time with the Lord, making it a teachable moment. She gets some dry cereal while he drinks some coffee, and they read out of the Jesus Storybook Bible together. Jesus said, “but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14 ESV), so reading a kids’ version of God’s Word seems appropriate, and my Honey found plenty of truth to stir personal reflection and prayer.
Including Pen Elaine in some gardening endeavors sometimes translates into rose petals being pulled off the plant and scattered around and in the bird bath, but she was sure the birds would enjoy the beauty of the scene while bathing in or drinking the water.
I am one of those people who always has 20 projects in the back of my mind that I plan to complete, plus 20 more sewing projects that I would love to start or finish. Giving up naptimes felt like giving up all my sewing projects, but after reading Desperate, I realized that it was important to continue in life-giving activities, which for me, includes creating things, so I decided Pen Elaine and I must sew together! So, my first project was a “Frozen princess” tutu/dress for Pen Elaine, which she helped with a bit and then I started her on her own project while I finished some of the machine sewing without her “help.”
Most recently, I realized I had given up any time of playing the old piano that takes up valuable space in our house. Instead of only playing the assortment of kid instruments we have in a music basket (that inspires Pen Elaine to form a band), sharing the joy I find in playing the piano led to an interpretative dance performance by Pen Elaine, for which she found an enthusiastically appreciative audience in Snuggly Man.
I think one of the underlying issues is that I’m learning to share my whole life with my kids, not just the areas that I choose to let them see. The truth is, they see the effects of whatever I hide from them, like using my free time to watch tv instead of using it for true refreshment from Scripture or prayer or personal reflection or making creative plans. Instead of being under the illusion of holding my cards close to my chest, God is using this transition to air out parts of me that had grown lazy or selfish or shallow and show me the path to freedom in total surrender to His plan for my life and my family. Now, Pen Elaine and I have this fleeting season of finding afternoon refreshment together, which looks different on different days, but it’s always the most fun when we are sharing our joys.