“Look at Kelly Ann’s eyes, aren’t they beautiful!” my father exclaimed after the nap I didn’t want to take. “Show your mommy. Show your grandfather,” he continued, working the whole nap thing on my tender psyche.
I was confused and pleased and annoyed all at the same time, but 40 years later, I still look in the mirror to check my eyes after a nap. Are they beautiful?
Funny how little ones resist naps while elders long for them. After my father’s early brainwashing, I became an expert napper. In my early twenties, I could sleep anywhere: on a ferry crossing the English Channel, in a train car seated next to strangers, on the lap of any man across the stick shift of my car.
When I was student teaching, I stole naps during recess on the milk-stained circle rug; and after I had a classroom of my own, I took covert naps under my desk on my period off while a colleague taught another group of kids in the same room.
Though the ease at which I sleep has since been robbed by Motherhood, I still enjoy napping. Come early afternoon, I can drop on my bed and crash for 10– changing my whole life perspective in the process.
When the kids were little, I was a nap junkie. I couldn’t wait till the next fix, but I never used the whole, “Aren’t her eyes pretty,” scam on them–but maybe that’s because I had two boys—and their eyes were always pretty.
To be fair to my father (which I rarely am), there is something precious about a young child after a nap. It’s there in the eyes, but it’s more than that– it’s their whole soft, dewy being, as if they’ve been reborn.
My husband and I used to fight over who would be the one to dash to the crib when we’d hear the first sounds of a baby waking. “It’s my turn. You did it yesterday,” we’d argue, shoving each other on our way up the stairs.
Sleep’s a funny thing, isn’t it? I mean people talk about it all the time—how much they need or how little they need, how much they get or didn’t get. That artist SARK has whole books and calenders and probably even workshops on napping–and my husband’s sister did her graduate work in sleep studies.
As a surgeon, my father was equally preoccupied with his sleep, given how often he was deprived of it by middle of the night emergency calls. Maybe that’s why he was so obsessed with our sleep. “Kelly Ann, get to bed,” was appropriate at age 9 and maybe even 15, but at 18, it was absurd.
I thus blame my sleep obsession on my father. Each night before I doze off, I check the clock to calculate how many hours I’ll get—and once I wake, I adjust that time for any middle of the night wakings: my husband’s trips to the bathroom, my teenage son’s heavy feet or my own mid-life hormonal fluctuations.
Ironically, my father now makes fun of me because I go to bed so early. He intentionally phones me really late at night and then leaves messages like, “Kelly Ann, don’t tell me you’re in bed already. It’s only eleven o’clock.” (To be honest, I’m actually in bed long before 11.)
Since he remarried, my father lives on the edge, living it up to the wee hours of the morning and bragging how he can get by with such little sleep. He doesn’t eat breakfast now either, and he never notices my pretty eyes. But I do, and a good night sleep or an afternoon nap are my best friends!