The Gentle Art of Napping

My mother was a napping aficionado. With eight children, several in diapers at the same time, the woman had to have a rest time plan. Predictably, by mid-afternoon of any summer day, the babies would be laid down to sleep, venetian blinds would be pulled down to the partially opened windows, the TV shut off, and the kitchen was closed.

Everyone from babies to teenagers laid down for a nap. During my formative years, my five sisters and I shared one big bedroom, the older sisters separated from the younger ones by an archway. I can still see my older sisters through that archway reading quietly, pony-tailed, glasses on, and their faces buried in their books. One of us younger siblings may have had some small toys, toy soldiers or some trinket that she played with quietly, and another sister and I usually talked quietly with our stuffed animals until we fell asleep, or we, too, read while the babies and my mom napped down stairs.

The reading of a book would suffice for the older kids, but ‘naptime’ was sacred. If anyone would ask me to define summer, the soft flow of sheer curtains in the summer breeze, the rhythmic tick of the clock, a lone caw of a blue jay in the sleepy yard, and the soft sound of baby’s breath in slumber would be the sweetest part of the picture.

As my mother’s daughter, this apple hasn’t fallen too far from that tree. Napping was essential, and my children went through the same training.

I tried to make our home a sanctuary of peace and order, balanced with playing pretend, music, art, magic shows, and old-fashion activities like playing board games, coloring, and constructing elaborate buildings with Lego, Lincoln Logs, and ‘stuff’ from around the house. If they weren’t playing freely outside or constructively in the house, then we were ALL quietly napping as the trees sizzled with cicadas in the triple digit heat of the late afternoon.

Taylor napping

Oh, we had our occasional outings and trips to the coast and state parks as a family, but ordinary summer days were lazy and hazy, and far from crazy. It may surprise you, but I didn’t hear, ‘Mom I’m bored,” very often.

My two children were very different in nature and age, yet I was able to get both of them to nap. It always baffles me when mother’s remark with disapproval, “Oh, we don’t nap,” (as if it’s a bad thing) or “Oh, no one makes their kids nap these days.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, taking naps, regardless of the research that supports the benefits of napping, carries a negative stigma:

“While research has shown that napping is a beneficial way to relieve tiredness, it still has stigmas associated with it.

  • Napping indicates laziness,
  • A lack of ambition, and low standards
  • Napping is only for children, the sick and the elderly
  • Though the above statements are false, many segments of the public may still need to be educated on the benefits of napping.”

Napping was never an option in my (or my mother’s) house, like chores and respecting adults, it was an expectation that started before the children could protest, with a consistent follow-through during their early childhood years and modeling; we did it, too. Like boundaries and rules, such as having to stay in their car seat, napping is teachable if you begin early and consistently hold to your expectations; children will adapt.

Everyone seems to be going, going, going somewhere, addicted to busyness, another fact sited by the National Sleep Foundation. It’s exhausting to watch today’s young parents constantly dragging their kids from amusement parks to zoos, from here to there, all in the name of ‘hands-on’ parenting! Really, it’s okay and good for your children to have ‘normal’ home days, and ‘home’ is the best place for them to learn that not everything in life is dazzling and over-stimulating. “Hands-on” parenting also means teaching children how to calm down and entertain themselves.

It’s not that hard to teach your children self control, which is essential in napping. I remember sometimes napping with my mom and a couple of my siblings. We were not allowed to move, like not at all! If I had an itch or was uncomfortable, my inner voice would talk me through it. It was in our best interest. No one, if they were smart, wanted to get my tired mother angry when she was trying to rest!

I learned to calm my body down ‘myself,’ which in many ways was ‘training’ for life! It taught us how to listen to stories and lessons without squirming around, to patiently wait one’s turn and in long lines, to quietly watch for birds or other wild life to emerge in their own time, and it taught us how to consider other people’s comfort and not wake them up without thought of how they would feel.

I believe napping taught us SELF CONTROL and CONSIDERATION OF OTHERS, something I’ve witnessed as sorely lacking among today’s children who interrupt adult conversations and demand a constant change of venue and attention. This is due in part to the misguided propaganda that children only have a 15 minute attention span, that they must be entertained, that they are ‘smarter’ than previous generations, and teaching ‘self control’ is old-fashion and too restrictive.

Now, I understand there are exceptions. Some children have different needs, medically diagnosed syndromes, and may not find it easy or even possible to lay their heads down for a 20 minute rest or ‘wait’ for anything. I get that. But, unfortunately, too many other parents of children with no special needs have adopted this excuse because “Johnny is too active.” If Johnny is too active, than more than anything he needs to be taught, again from the get go, how to calm his body down.

Too often the parent thinks that because Johnny is too active to nap, that he must be brilliant, easily bored by common things; exceptional! Yeah, I think not. Johnny lacks self-discipline. Miraculously even the smartest of children, prior to the 21 Century, managed to take naps and attend in school. They were taught to control themselves, and napping was one ways to a means.

Parents aren’t doing their kids any favors by letting them run themselves down to exhaustion so they will sleep at night, or allowing them to dictate the course of the day or rhythm of the house. Instead, what parents are doing is setting-up those same beloved children for failure because everywhere in life, except in their own house, there are boundaries, rules, regulations, expectation of certain behaviors, and other people (like classmates) to consider.

Far too often, people just don’t understand the meaning of the world ‘discipline.’ They equate discipline with punishment (spanking, time out, a whippin’) which is actually an after effect of the cause of NOT disciplining. The word discipline means ‘to instruct.’ When we teach our children how to sit and stay in the chair at the table during dinner, we are ‘disciplining’ them in how to behave at school, in restaurants, in church, and in most public arenas in life.

It’s trite but true, children learn from example.

When we expect and teach our children how to watch a movie without talking or playing on some kind of hand-held device, we are teaching them how to be attentive when listening to a teacher and when having a conversation. But while your children are young, the parents have to do the same thing because, well, your children are watching you.

It’s the old ‘do as I say, not as I do’ dilemma.

Shutting off the electronic in order to create an environment so your child can ‘discipline’ himself to stay focused on an activity or quiet himself to nap requires diligent, mindful parenting. At some point, hopefully before their child is confused by inconsistency, parents have to shift their priorities away from trying to pacify their children, please their children, or win their love by always keeping them entertained, to providing order and routine in a well-balanced, adult run home.

It’s a challenge, I know. Like my peers, I was not raised in the digital age, but I surely enjoy those advantages now, so I understand the conflict of interest.

Just the same, as a child raised without excessive electronics, I can see the benefits of not having such distractions through my formative years. I know we would have lost out on so much if our parents were constantly on their phones and computers. It’s addictive because it’s a distraction from the tasks at hand, but the ‘task at hand’ IS parenting! Somehow parents have to shelf their own preoccupation with technology in order to consistently model conversation, engage in activities with their children without stopping to text or tweet or check their Facebook status, and illustrate the behaviors that they expect from their children.

Parenting is hard work from the minute your child takes his first breath to YOUR last breath. It always has been. But it is not a ‘reactionary’ business (they cry, scream, demand and you react). Parenting done well is a planned-out, strategic business, where you are in charge and you hold the decision making power, so you can run a smooth and manageable home and your children can learn the skills needed to be successful students and adults.

Teaching through modeling behavior is the best way for your child to learn how to nap, read, watch a movie, and attend to other learning experience without ‘getting bored.’

Try to picture your house calmed down. It’s quiet and you can think. Nothing is blaring with the sound of cartoon characters yelling or video game gunshots and military commands. Maybe your cat is purring at the end of your bed, or the dog is curled up in deep afternoon slumber at your feet.

You are unplugged.

Now imagine your children seeing you quiet yourself.

Like generations of parents before you who practiced the gentle art of napping, shut off the ringers, click off the TV, lock the doors, lower the shades, and don’t take food, your iPad, iPhone, or any other hand-held device into the bed. Don’t bribe, just DO what you want them to do. Reading a book together works like magic, for you and them. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to get your little ones to nap, especially during these long summer days.

The benefits of napping from a needed rest to learning self-control outweigh the negative stigmas and temporary disengagement from the global world. They’ll thank you someday, mine do; and you’ll also get to hang up your super mom hat and rest yourself. It’s a win-win deal and good parenting!

Summer Again

picmonkey on the dock“And talk of poems and prayers and promises and things that we believe in. How sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care.~JD

When you are empty and so set-apart, open your eyes, and soften your heart.

Think of us sitting at the end of a dock, feet dangling in the water, not alone on a rock.

We are young and excited; no sense of alarm, my swishing hips and your muscular arms.

Our senses are heightened and acutely aware of the quaking aspen and pine in the air.

The billowy clouds fluff the blue northern sky; the smell of the earth is ripe and alive.

The lap of the lake swallows up our strong knees, no aches or moans; we’re as wild as we please.

Sweet fragrance of sweat glistens on our summer skin, in the wild of the forest, the water, and the wind.

Something is stirring, sensation and ache. It’s easy to be silly and sleepy and wide awake.

Not yet armored by disappointments and hurt, our hearts gladly open, we tease and we flirt.

The sun on the water mirrors the light in our eyes, and laughter comes easy, we giggle and sigh.

Soft kisses, near misses, come close and then run; we splash and we dunk in the afternoon sun.

We dive and we swim, float at near flank. There’s a chill in the air as we race towards the bank.

We scurry to gather our blankets and loot; flannel shirts, suspenders, blue jeans and boots.

A campfire is built as you wield your fine axe; wild violets, forest lilies grace our table of snacks.

Our poles find perch at the end of our lines. It’s late, but on time, as crickets sing and rhyme.

In the breath of the forest, no one’s right, nothing’s wrong, as evening settles in and the shadows grow long.

Quiet talk at our camp fire of constellations and bears; your fingers entangled in my gossamer hair.

We lie on our backs, hear the cry of a loon, we stare up at the stars and the wax of the moon.

Not a penny to spare, we can’t leave home, get married, buy a house, or backpack and roam.

Weightless and free, no child or great plans; aging ills or more bills, no regrets or political stands.

Nothing binds us, except the love of life, and our fire-lit gaze, sun-kissed hands held tight.

We are both each other’s listener and new best friend. There’s magic in the moment, feeling love with no end.

If I were to ask for a couple of things, in the drab of daily details, routines, and worn rings.

It would be for you to see me as sweetly as then, in need of your smile and a prince among men.

We could take an adventure; make a few stops; walk hand-in-hand as we dally through shops.

Forget that we’re older, return to the woods, no caution or worry, no ‘we can’t’ or ‘we should.’

But regardless of everything, more than anything, my old friend, I’d ask you to bring back the summer again.

59 and Holding…

best3…my bladder. The railing. My tongue!

I never liked the saying, “39 and holding.” I felt it was just one more slap in the face of older women and a high five to the glorification of youth. We ought to be proud we got this far in life. We are the wise women of the world even if we are pretty much ignored.

The reality is that no matter how many inspirational posters we all share of crazy older women in big red hats and gray-haired grandmas driving around in convertibles while sporting oversized sunglasses with their laughing gal pals, ‘the world’ doesn’t see us, nor think of us as glamorous, or viable, or even intelligent. Unless, of course, you’re Christie Brinkley and your whole life has been spent on the profitability of looking beautiful. Even 60-something Cindy Joseph, the new spokeswoman for ‘older women’ in the glam world, has the classic square-cut jaw and the body of a highly maintained young woman. You can put gray hair on it and sprinkle it with a few cute dimpled wrinkles, but a model is still a model; not the norm. Normal women in their 60s are pretty much invisible.

Even the most educated and accomplished women are looked over to spy the bulbous asses of empty-headed babes. If you’re an intellectual ‘older’ woman, you’re on a hag list or not acknowledge at all. You may have some buying or political power and the luxury of a big veranda overlooking the ocean, but words out of the luscious plump lips of a young mouth still draw more attention, regardless of how idiotic they are. The rest of us, at best, are someone’s loving grandma or a doer of good deeds. Loving and being loved is enough for most of us.

Many people would say, “Hey, get over it! You’ve had your moment in the sun; quietly move out of the way, lady. It’s not about ‘you’ anymore.” Of which I would generally agree. It’s hard work to keep up with perfect celebrities who still look airbrushed and sexy, or the young women filtering into your hard-earned career in their yoga pants and digital language. I don’t have the energy to compete with that ridiculousness.

But, it’s something else we grapple with, something more elusive that we try to hold on to: TIME.

Beauty may be fleeting, but TIME moves as swift as freakin’ flood waters! One minute you’re driving down the road, the wind in your hair with your skinning arms glistening in the sun, your teeth white as pearls, your face still distinguishable from your neck, listening to America’s ‘Ventura Highway …” feeling badass and beautiful. Then you change the station and you can’t understand the music, you can’t read the road signs without your tri-focal lenses on. Someone is talking to your through your car radio and you sound like your grandma as you try to figure out how to talk to the dashboard; you just want everything to slow down. One day it IS all about you, and then the next the flood waters of time sweep you into a weird kind of warped no-man’s land where you don’t belong anymore.

It takes tenacity to not be drown-out!

But ‘time’ stops for no woman. It doesn’t even slow down. In fact, everything changes faster and faster as the years go by, and if you’re on top of things, one can do okay navigating through those swift flood waters, for awhile. It helps to have kids. They teach you things and tell you to change your clothes when ‘you look old and frumpy, mom.’ It helps to remain a part of the work and social world. It keeps one sharp and alert, especially as everything just keeps getting more and more unnecessarily competitive. It helps, but it won’t save you. “Oldness” creeps up on you in the middle of the night when you turn and your back goes out or when you can’t seem to get up that long flight of stairs.

It robs you of the ‘right’ words, in a kind of half-joking way.

The other day I was driving with my daughter behind a very slow vehicle, and I yelled at the car in front of us, “Hellloooo, its 65 degrees, dumbass!” Apparently, my old wires got tangled and I blurted out the wrong term of measurement! It was great for a good laugh. We’re still laughing about that, but I’m not so sure it’s funny. It’s scary. What will I say next?

With time goes flexibility, upper body strength, mental sharpness, sex drive and performance. Your bladder weakens, your internal organs start messing with you, “Heartburn, again? What did you eat, honey?” Every day it’s something else…a new wrinkle, hair in places one never thought hair would grow, and diagnoses of syndromes you’ve never even heard about before you got old!

Of course, one does the best they can to keep living! Very few of us just want to roll over and die, though at the worst of times, like when you’re coughing incessantly and pissing yourself at the same time, I’m sure it seems like a reasonable option. Just take me now, God.

As a newborn with my mama

As a newborn with my mama

I loved talking to my mother. She was as funny as Hell about these things, though I know how much she suffered on many levels. She taught me stuff, though, important ways to look at all of these cruel changes. Mostly, she taught me to savor the present moment, to take it all in, to run while I could still run and ‘doll myself up’ as long as my lipstick wasn’t bleeding into the wrinkles around my lips.

The changes of getting older are not really teachable, though. It’s like telling a man what it’s like to bear a child or a civilian what it’s like to crawl through the jungles of Vietnam. Until one does it, whatever it is, they’ll never really know.

I usually take stock of my life and make resolutions on my birthday, much like one does on New Year’s Eve. Tonight I found myself making a list of things, dreams and plans that I know will never happen in the years I have left. Kind of an acceptance speech on reality.

Big dreams like buying a vintage house; won’t happen. Living in a small town again; can’t move without the hubby and he’s not budging. Thick voluminous hair; it’s only getting thinner. A perfect figure; it never has been, well except that one year in 1986. I was HOT that year! World travel, a move back up north, wild nights of sensuous romantic love; nope, nope, and nope (damn!).

Circumstances, health, finances, and, yes, aging, have all pretty much closed down some roads.

But what I do have isn’t so bad. I’ve worked hard so I can live more freely on my modest pension. The kids are in the beginnings of their marriages, so grandchildren are a reasonable expectation. I can still walk, talk, sing (well, not as good as I used to), joke around, read and drive (with the right corrective lenses), and generally connect with others. If not, I’ve learned how to ‘nod and smile.’ Thanks mom.

I generally get along with my husband of almost 30 years. We’re the same ages as Aunt Bea and Floyd the barber on the original “The Andy Griffith Show,” for God’s sakes! He (my husband, not Floyd) opens my jars and keeps me in conversation. We don’t always see eye-to-eye on politics and movies. He doesn’t like loud music; I can’t hear music unless it’s loud. He likes dark rooms; I can’t function without natural light. He grumbles and gets pissy when he’s mad; I just disappear for a few hours. We both talk to our pets like they’re children and love being around our real children, so it all works out. We share some laughs, some affection, enough to not give up on each other or plot the other’s death.

A long marriage, like aging, just isn’t something people can tell you about until you’ve lived it. Unless one wants to be alone or angry their whole life, you make it work and muddle through together. There’s a lot of muddling.

Time keeps racing along, even as we muddle and scramble to keep things the same. One day you realize no one wants your ‘highly experienced’ expertise at work anymore. You’ll want to have dinner with your kid, and he’ll be leaving to have dinner with someone else. Few people will want to hear your precious memories (again?), and the face looking back at you in the mirror may become unrecognizable.

Our bodies start to give out, even as we do our yoga, water aerobic, and daily walks. You notice a spot where there wasn’t one, you can see the tracks of your veins through your thinning skin, your lower arms are flapping more than before, you can’t crap; it happens.

You’ll survive, of course; God willing you’ll thrive. But, ‘holding on’ isn’t an option. You just have to live the Hell out of the moment you’re in. There’s no getting anything back; time marches on.

My mother was a great example of someone who didn’t let time or aging get in her way. Wherever her

Me and my mom in the 1960s

Me and my mom in the 1960s

children and grandchildren lived, she got there, even if she had to wear Depends, ride through the airport terminal in a wheelchair, pack a week’s worth of medications (my God that woman had pills), a patch over one eye, a bum leg, whatever, she went!

One time she was driving her little car along a country road up north, and she looked like a 12 year old kid with a mop head of gray hair and a lead foot, hugging the steering wheel with crazed determination on her face. I thought, “Who the Hell are you? You’re not my mother!” She was hilariously bold. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was skillfully navigating those flood waters of change, adapting, morphing, whether she wanted to or not, into a survivor of time.

Mom in her 80s

Mom in her 80s

As for me, well I still have a few more doable dreams in me. I can still look presentable, though more Aunt Bea-ish than like Christie Brinkley. It’s important to me, though; it’s significant to keep trying. Once one doesn’t care, doesn’t try, is convinced ‘no one cares what they look like,’ or ‘no one is listening,’ or they ‘think’ they can’t do something because they are old, then they are definitely ‘old.’

At 59 that’s my birthday wish to myself, to courageous navigate the flood waters of change….even if I have to learn some new fandangle app, or I use the wrong words here and there. There’s no ‘holding;’ there’s just making the most of the moment. No crazy red hat that proclaims, “I’m a wild and wise woman” or super model’s lip balm is going to make a difference or stop the hands of time. One just has to stay the uncertain course of rocks and waves, even the still lonely waters, until there are no more birthdays left to say,

“Hey, I’m still here. Let’s eat cake!”Cindy's bday 1962