Watching my five month old daughter resist a nap has given new meaning to the phrase "falling asleep". She really looks like she's falling. Her eyelids droop, her taut limbs slowly descend toward the mattress. And just when she's about to land in a pleasant slumber, she gasps, clenches every muscle and pulls herself back into determined, cranky consciousness.
I don't totally get why she fights it, but I remember hating naps when I was a kid. I can still see the wood grain patterns on the underside of the top bunk bed on a sunny afternoon in 1981. I was bored out of my mind. If I were TIRED, I'd be sleeping right now! As I laid in my prison cell, I imagined all the fun stuff my mom must have been doing at that moment. I can't wait till I'm a grown up and no one can tell me what to do. Years later, I would have a similar fantasy as I stared through the chain link fence that surrounded my elementary school playground. That guy mowing his lawn at the house across the street has no idea how good he has it. He is free.
I have to admit, being a grown up is better, though I now understand that adulthood comes with its own traps and tedium. I still hate naps and take far fewer than the number prescribed to new moms. I don't always sleep when the baby sleeps, because when else am I going to write? Will Bernadette envy my writing time when she's old enough to understand what I'm doing when I make her go to bed in the middle of the day?
So, I don't look at Bernadette or my young self and say, "You silly thing, someday you'll prize this activity you once hated!" That was never true for me. I guess the one thing I wish a child could understand and appreciate while they're still young is the preciousness of time. I was always wanting to speed things up. I can't wait for this nap time to be over. I can't wait until I'm old. It's only December 14th and I'm dying for it to be Christmas Day! As an adult, I love and savor the holiday season from Thanksgiving onward. But I'd gladly do without the gift exchange, and Christmas Day tends to be anticlimactic. As a child, the seemingly eternal build-up frustrated me. Now it moves so fast. I guess the days seem so much longer when you don't have that many behind you.
I'm turning 35 in a few weeks - not so very old, but not so very young, either. In a weird and unanticipated way, I feel lucky to have a baby at this pivotal moment. Raising an infant warps time. The days stretch and fly like a fickle rubber band. It's exhausting and enlivening all at once. I'm often immersed in vivid nostalgia but also feel excited for the future. Somehow, I'm able to ponder all that while being present for this very needy person. It's hard work, but I'd rather be this busy than be obsessing over my age. I'd rather be mowing the lawn than staring through the chain link fence.