Family Man: Find the Nap

By Gregory Keer

At parties, I speak in hushed tones with other moms and dads about naps as if they're contraband.

I need a nap. After another week of packing my schedule tighter than Cheryl Tiegs used to wear her jeans, I'm jonesing for a doze like a deprived chocoholic craves a Hershey's Kiss. I'm a father wandering for days in the desert of sleep deprivation in search of a mattress oasis. I want a siesta so badly that I've changed the words of a Dora the Explorer song and endlessly hum "Find the Nap."

I've already had to give up on evening sleep. At night, when I'm supposed to be unconscious, my brain works overtime on the daily and long-term anxieties of life. Then there are the wee-hours interruptions from my boys, the dog, or the police helicopters shining searchlights on our back yard looking for fugitives (OK, it's only happened twice). My only opportunities to catch up on rest come in five- to 30-minute segments.

Infrequently, nap miracles happen, but only by chance am I granted a full hour. I snatch as much sleep as I can if I get home from work early, before my wife brings the kids home. This "tweener" snooze is great because it freshens me up for the second shift of parenting and late-night work. But the snoozes I truly savor are the weekend naps when the children are sleeping or out at playdates. I settle into my bed, clothes still on (ready to spring back into action), and drift away.

I've gotten so desperate about napping that I've declined opportunities for "afternoon delights" with my wife, opting instead to close my eyes for a spell. In fact, Wendy and I will fight for this manna of slumber. Invariably, one of us looks at the other with a battle-weary expression and pleads for a few minutes to power down. When she or I give in, guilt ensues since the other has to keep the kids quiet to let the lucky one get some rest.

"How come you get a nap?" I often complain. "I had a harder week than you did."

"You got two naps in a row," Wendy says. "It's my turn!"

We sound like our kids, battling over a toy. Then again, naps these days are gifts.

The most precious are the quick sleeps Wendy and I take together. If the kids are safely engaged in other activities, we crash until one of the boys (usually 5-year-old Jacob) comes in crying about getting an "accidental" elbow in the face.

In the time when we just had Benjamin (now 9), we'd steal naps while he played alone. That didn't work too often. Once, he ran a line of Hot Wheels® track from the floor to the bed, and across my chest. When I woke up, I screamed, thinking I'd been turned into a used car lot for tiny people.

Obviously, I'm not the only parent with this plight. At parties, I speak in hushed tones with other moms and dads about naps as if they're contraband. Whereas we used to discuss film and politics, school choices and little league, we now opine about a few solo minutes on a bed or couch. Peace, quiet and enough time to mentally flatline, that's all we want.

Somehow, I've become like an old man sitting on a porch. I nod off whenever my blood pressure has a chance to lower. I drift away in front of the TV, in long work meetings, and - on one or two scary but thankfully safe occasions - while sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I'll take the nap wherever I can get it. A movie theater's perfect because it's dark, the seats are cushy, and the kids are entranced by dragons or penguins. Who needs hotels when you've got a multiplex?

The irony, of course, is that kids hate to nap or sleep. They're afraid to miss out on fun and fight tooth and nail to stay awake. So I have a proposal for the kids out there. They can stay up and we'll take the naps. We'll creep off to our beds, close the door, kick … off … our shoes, lie … down … and … zzzzzzzz. …

Aw, who am I kidding?