This went on for months. Some weeks, especially when he was sick, he would nap five or six days in a week. Some weeks when he was feeling especially feisty, he would only nap two out of seven days. But we limped along, and most days he was relatively quiet for an hour in his crib and relatively sane through the afternoons.
Then, about a month ago, came the time of Toddler Losing It Completely. He became so overtired from a persistent cough, nighttime awakenings, and no naps that I was scraping him off the floor at regular intervals all day long. As soon as he woke in the morning, the whining and tantrums began. By four o'clock in the afternoon, he was begging for his bottle and putting his head down on the table instead of eating. Completely pitiful. I was beside myself dealing with the constant fuss and so frustrated that he just wouldn't go to sleep already!
A few times, Elan fell asleep in his stroller at odd times, overcome by sheer exhaustion. Mikhail and a friend who saw my desperation both suggested that I try getting him to fall asleep in the stroller at naptime, but I resisted the idea, afraid that such accommodation would screw up his nighttime sleep even more. But finally, after yet another hour-long scream-a-thon in his crib during naptime, I knew what we were doing wasn't working. I was desperate enough to call a sleep consultant, something I have often been advised to do in dealing with our troublesome sleeper but had never actually done. From just a short conversation on the phone, she pegged our boy as an "adaptable" sleeper. Not the kind of adaptable where they fall asleep anywhere, anytime. Adaptable meaning "short memory." She said this kind of kid did best with a strict sleep schedule (which we figured out long ago) and suggested that whatever new tactic I try for naptime, I should fully commit to it for at least a few weeks. I decided to chance it, and committed to walking him in the stroller everyday, rain or shine, to give him an opportunity to calm down and fall asleep.
The next day, I loaded him in the stroller along with his doggie and a blanket and gave him his bottle. He railed against the onset of sleep for about twenty minutes, but finally the lulling of the stroller won out and he conked out, beautiful blond head bobbing. I eased him out of the stroller and carried him limp-limbed up the stairs. He slept for two hours. I was ecstatic.
The next day, it was raining. I considered opting out but remembered the commitment. I pulled my rain pants out of the depths of my closet and rummaged under the bed for my waterproof boots. I loaded Elan into the stroller and snapped down the rain cover, which, having lived in San Diego, I had never tested in real rain before. To my surprise, walking in the rain was actually quite peaceful. And fifteen minutes later, I had an asleep - and dry - boy.
This has gone on now for the last ten days. And ten days in a row, Elan has taken a nap. He is so much more pleasant to be around, and I am no longer dreading the morning knowing I have a full day of cranky kid ahead of me. The walks are slow and meditative, giving me a chance to really look around and soak up the lush, quiet beauty of the Berkeley neighborhood we've only called home for five months.
And then came today. It was not raining today at the designated stroller-naptime - it was pouring. I suited up, snapped down, and headed out. Rain pounded loud on my hood. Sheets of water slanted across the sky, angled for maximum wetness. The curbs were roaring rivers. My first instinct was to run, to get away. I thought: this is insane. A normal person would have tried the rocking chair. But then I intentionally slowed my pace. I reminded myself: this is the point, to be out here, no matter what. Except for my hands, soaked on the stroller handlebar, I was warm and dry. So was Elan, cuddled underneath his blanket with the rain drumming on the clear plastic raincover. The things we do, I thought, and walked on.
There is definitely a freedom in embracing that which everyone else is trying to avoid. Cars slowed as they passed us. I imagined the drivers staring out with pity or concern. Onward we sloshed. The water beading on tiny blue flowers; the wet bringing out different shades of green - the brightness of a fern frond, the darkness of a dripping redwood leaf - for this moment, details existing just for us. We soaked them in.
And yes, he fell asleep.