Saturday, April 7, 2012

Occam's Razor: The Nap Corollary

The principle commonly referred to as “Occam’s Razor” states, basically, that the best explanation of a situation or the best solution to a problem is usually the simplest one. Occam’s Razor has a lot of applications in parenting. For example, if your 8-year-old is playing baseball in the yard and your window suddenly shatters, according to Occam’s Razor, the likeliest reason for the broken window is not a daytime prowler coming after your worldly goods, but your 8-year-old hitting a baseball through the window. Or if your 4-year-old comes to you in tears because his prized rock is missing from his pocket and there is a hole in said pocket, chances are the rock fell through the hole rather than being stolen by a marauding rock pickpocket. Today’s parenting example of Occam’s Razor is the Nap Corollary.

This particular corollary of the principle is being applied to my son’s diminishing willingness to take naps. On one hand, when I finally get him to go down for a nap, he still sleeps for two hours 99% of the time, which indicates that he needs the extra sleep. But on the other hand, on days when he doesn’t take a nap, he doesn’t generally go to bed any earlier or wake up any later, so maybe he doesn't need the extra sleep. I have been exploring solutions to the one- to three-hour long nap battle for weeks, even months, without much success. I tried putting him down with music on and with no music on. I tried putting him down as early as noon and as late as 4pm. I tried sitting in his room without speaking. I tried sitting in his room and barking at him to “Lie down!” and “Lie still!” and “Stop talking!” I tried lying in the bed next to him. I tried lying in the bed next to him while pinning him in a half-Nelson. (That was the closest to successful; however, I think it was more exhausting for me than for him so I needed a two-hour nap afterwards as well.)

But I finally lit on a solution that I think is working. For the past week, when naptime comes, I put him in his room and tell him he doesn’t have to go to sleep, or even stay in his bed. But he does need to stay in his room and play quietly for two hours. No jumping on the bed, no stuffing toys or clothes in the diaper pail (oy, there’s another whole blog entry in THAT little gem), and no hiding in the closet (he gets stuck and panics). But he can read his books and play with his toys, and if he should happen to get tired, he can lie down and take a nap. He tells me every time that he won’t take a nap, but as of today, he’s got about a fifty percent record for ending up napping, either in his bed or on the floor somewhere.

I don’t know why it took me so long to come up with the simple solution of letting him (or his body) decide whether he needs a nap or not. As long as he’s not a cranky monster for the rest of the day, it doesn’t matter to me whether he sleeps or not so long as I get two hours of not having to hover over him. Other than the aforementioned diaper pail, his room is sufficiently DestructoBoy-proofed that he can’t do any permanent damage in two hours. It gives him good practice in keeping himself entertained, it gives me a bit of a break, and it lets us both ease into the transition from napping to not napping.

And you know what the best part is? When he’s safely in his room for two hours, Mama gets to take a nap even when he doesn’t take one. Thank you, Mr. Occam, wherever you are!

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