Daddy Needs a Nap

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My job as an early morning TV host on WCCB means I work something close to third-shift or graveyard-shift hours. I have two alarms that go off every morning at 1:45 a.m. I attempt to go to bed by 8:45 p.m. on weeknights so I can get five hours of sleep, but that usually doesn’t happen. The problem is that even if I do get five hours of rest, I am not one of those super-humans who is as perky as a Katy Perry song. I typically need and take an afternoon nap.

So far, my kids have been afternoon nappers, too. My oldest, Tyler, napped almost all the way up until he turned 5, most likely because I bribed him to sleep. He didn’t respond to threats like “If you don’t take a nap, we’re not going to the park later.” And 4-year-olds rarely have any dirty secrets you can use to blackmail them. Money worked for a little while, but when quarters were no longer enough, and he was asking for dollars, I had to tap out. Luckily, he was back in school before it got too costly.

When Tyler stopped napping, I stopped too, which made me what my wife and kids refer to as “grumpy daddy.” That was also the year when I accidentally put the peanut butter in the refrigerator and answered the door in just my underwear. That door-to-door salesman will never return. I also burned about a half-dozen frozen pizzas in the oven that I forgot about.  Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts knew me by name because I needed a regular boost. I don’t remember much about that year, even though it was just last year.

My youngest son Chase is 3 and takes about a two-hour nap with me every afternoon after preschool. Sleep experts say that is a horrible idea. I know that adult naps are supposed to only last 10-30 minutes, but I take whatever I can get. I am used to that groggy feeling. A few years ago, I had sinus surgery and it took two hours longer than usual for me to wake up from the anesthesia, and several members of the hospital staff plus my wife working together to get me to stay awake as I was crying and muttering, “I can’t do it. Need sleep.”

My fear is Chase is going to be that kid who gives up the afternoon nap even earlier than his big brother. He turns 4 in April, which means I’m already on borrowed time. One technique I plan to use that seemed to help with Tyler was the “playground wear down.” Let him run free until he’s asking to go home. Back at the house, give him a snack with carbs, not sugar. Read a couple of books and then say “good night.” If that doesn’t work, I can always get some quarters.

I try to put a positive spin on the sleep sacrifice I’m going through now. I tell myself once both kids are in school all day that not only can I get a good nap and be as perky as Katy Perry, I can workout more, get more done around the house and write the great American novel. My wife says even with 10 hours of sleep that will never happen, and she’s probably right.  

Derek James is a host of WCCB News Rising, and lives with his wife and two sons, ages 3 and 6. Read more from James in his Daddy Derek blog.