The Prayer of a Stoplight Nap, available at:

Happily Even After

The Prayer of a Stoplight Nap

December 5, 2011

I think most parents of small children will admit to stealing naps whenever they present themselves, however small. I’m not ashamed to say that from time to time I indulge in a 15-second nap at a stoplight, just to close my eyes.

I was speaking about sleeping habits with a couple who were married in the last two months. They were horrified to hear that I could not remember the last time I slept past 10 a.m. I honestly don’t think that I’m physiologically capable of sleeping past 9 a.m. anymore.

Saturdays are a haven for us. On Friday nights, we set the TV to the PBS station before turning it off, so the kids can turn it on when they wake up around 7:30 and watch the Electric Company or Word Girl. That buys us an hour or so. Sundays have a similar lazy wakeup time (although without the TV), but the rest of the week, we’re up before 7 for the morning routine.

When the kids were infants, we were up every four hours or so to nurse, so things have certainly improved from that. Still, unrestful nights are not uncommon.

This past week, Simon spent one night vomiting at 90-minute intervals. Lucy spent another night up and down for no apparent reason. Nights like that wear me down. I find I can get through the first part of the following day with little difficulty, but mid-afternoon sleepiness calls me like a siren. It is like I’m sitting in a physics lecture in a warm room after lunch.

It is on days like this when I’ll take any opportunity to nap whatsoever. Closing my eyes, even for a brief moment, is such sweet relief.

The disruption in sleep patterns presents a clear and present danger to parenting and marriage. I find I can’t trust my reactions when I’m sleep-deprived. I easily revert to selfishness and grumpily snap at minor causes. I’m at my best with Stacey when I operate out of a reservoir of patience. When I’m without sleep, it feels like I’m running on fumes. If I’m grumpy AND Stacey is grumpy, things get ugly fast.

One of the things we give up as parents is the luxury of determining our own sleeping patterns. It is a sacrifice that is taken from us, willing or not. When I have the wherewithal to make it a willing sacrifice, that sleep deprivation can become a prayer of sorts. Letting go of my sleeping patterns and preferences is a prayer because I’m bending my life to make room for other, little ones. And it is a type of prayer that is deeper than focused meditation or devotional prayer because it is a prayer of practice—it is a prayer of my life.

On those days, this is often the only prayer I can imagine squeezing into my day, but it is more than enough to make me feel refreshed.

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Happily Even After

Happily Even After

Josh and Stacey have been married for almost 20 years. They have three children in middle school and high school. The Noems live in Indiana, where Stacey teaches in the Master of Divinity program at Notre Dame and Josh is a freelance writer.


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