Noise and hullabaloo rule the daylight hours at our house.

After a long day of wrestling toddlers, arguing with 3-year-olds and trying to feed a 5-year-old’s curiosity, it’s tempting to take advantage of the quiet that only awakens when the children sleep.

As the children grow, naptime becomes more optional.  Lana can usually take it or leave it.  Late night before?  Maybe she will nap.  Well rested?  Forget it.  She has more interesting activities in mind, mostly in the worlds she reveals with crayons.

Whether she naps or not, naptime happens.  Everyone in bed.  Lights dim.  You can read if you can do it quietly without giving up to sleep.  Noise and antics are rewarded with a graduated series of consequences.  They conceded that battleground years ago.

For Christa, naptime is the first time she can hear her own thoughts.  The temptation is great to reverse-tornado the house, gathering up scattered toys, debris and rubbish.  Or else make a few phone calls, answer a few emails and try to attend a few bills.  But she knows better.  This is her last chance at a refresh for hours, a single rest stop in a long, dry marathon.

In the evening, the process goes into high-gear, demanding even more attention and a full-time effort (plus supercomputer multitasking skills and five arms).  At least a two-hour sprint:

  • prepare dinner
  • eat it together without resorting to barbaric growls and slurps
  • wash little hands and faces
  • restore the kitchen and dining table
  • supervise waves of bathroom visits
  • an optional mass bathing ritual
  • drive-by teeth brushings
  • pajamafication
  • douse the increasing summer-ish late daylight with blackout curtains
  • read a story to settle the mood
  • pennies rewarded for chores
  • quick prayer and death threats
  • and then silence, at last

After that we’re both ready for our own blackout: the fully clothed, sleep-where-you-fall kind.

Something compels us to stay awake, to accomplish more with the day after they are down.  By 7:30 PM, it’s easy to look back and wonder if we got anything done besides a lot of nose-wiping and one or two horrible diaper refreshes.  But if we don’t set a limit — an hour or two past the children’s bedtime — we’re doomed.