I nap with my preschooler and have zero regrets

I nap with my preschooler and have zero regrets

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My son and I have a routine. After lunch, we wash up and head into the bedroom. He turns on his sound machine, the cats jump up onto the bed, and we all settle in.

"Cuddle me big, please, Mommy," my son requests. I wrap my arms around him until he drifts off to sleep, and I stay with him until he wakes up. Most days I work from my phone or laptop while he's sleeping, but sometimes I sleep alongside him. In any case, I'm there, and I stay there beside him as long as he wants or needs me.

I didn't always nap with him. In fact, co-sleeping in any form was on the top of my list of "Things I'll Never Do as a Parent" before I had a child. Yet, as most parents can attest, that list is usually decimated within a few months of the birth of your child. I look back now and cringe at how I somehow thought I knew better.

Our co-napping started when my son was about 2 1/2 years old. We moved to a new house a few weeks after transitioning him out of his crib, and the combination of the two changes seemed to overwhelm him. One effect: despite everything we tried, he refused to nap. Monsters and skeletons were his top reasons – he claimed they all lived in his new room.

His pediatrician suggested that he might just be done with naps, as some children are at that age. We moved up his bedtime to help with the adjustment, yet he was still tired in the afternoons. He would stay awake through his nap time and eventually he'd fall asleep on the couch, or even the floor, around dinner time, which then kept him up far too late.

One day, out of desperation, I suggested to him that we could nap together. He not only agreed to the nap, he did so happily. As my mind scanned the list of things I could/should do if I was lucky enough to get him to sleep, every fiber of my being told me that this was the wrong move. But if he wasn't going to sleep anyway, what did I have to lose?

He slept.

I tried to sneak out of the room after a few minutes, but he woke up and refused to continue napping without me. So I stayed. The next day, I stayed again. After a week or two, this became routine, and it still is nearly 8 months later.

I spent a lot of time those first few weeks resenting the naps. Nap time had been my time, a moment when I could actually sit still. True, I'd usually clean the house or work – sometimes both – but some days I'd sit on the couch and zone out to a reality TV show, simply because I could. Now that time was gone, and it felt like another piece of me was lost to motherhood.

But that changed. One day, my son awoke from his nap and said, "Thank you for being with me, Mommy!" My heart swelled. Resentment and regret went out the window, and I've never looked back. In fact, it's become my favorite part of the day.

I love that his tiny body fits perfectly within mine. I can wrap myself around him and it's like we were made for one another. Which, in a way, we were. I love to see his eyelashes, longer than my own, resting on top of his chubby cheeks when he closes his eyes. I kiss those cheeks softly; he's deep in slumber and barely moves under my touch.

The gentle rhythm of his chest moving up and down is so sweet. He gets so warm, like a heater switched on high, and his hair becomes matted with a light sweat and sticks to his head. He smells sweet, though … I inhale his scent, and wonder at what age we stop smelling like babies.

I have waited my whole life to be here, in this moment in time, when I'm a mother. His mother.

Soon, I'll have all the time in the world again. He won't even be napping much longer. What will I do then? All the things I am worried about or convinced I should be doing tomorrow are nothing compared to what I have today: a child in my arms who trusts me completely and feels relaxed and content as he drifts off to sleep … and then he wakes up with a smile when he realizes I'm still there, wrapped up with him.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.

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