Gus is 947 days old today and he had his real first taste of ice cream -- blueberry, of course -- a week ago. That same night, he didn’t fall asleep until 10:30. The two hours between then and his normal sleep time were filled with him crawling out of bed, running up and down the halls, demanding more food or a drink of water, hitting me in the head with his toy cars or asking for balloons. The next morning he woke up promptly at 6:30 and proceeded to continue the antics that Becky and I refer to as "Hurricane Gus." That afternoon, Gus went to his half-day session of daycare and refused to nap with the other children, refused to even lie down on his naptime sheepskin and just generally ruined the few minutes of quiet time Thea gets in the afternoon while caring for other people’s children.
Now, I’m not saying the ice cream caused Gus to go on his mini-rampage, but he’s not much of a sugar child. He usually only takes a few bites of pie or cake when it’s offered to him and has no desire for juices (though he does like lemonade from time to time). He’s even been known to throw his pancakes or waffles on the floor if they have too much maple syrup on them.
But last weekend I gave him the option of French fries or ice cream and opted for the latter, so we went and got some strawberry frozen yogurt. He and I shared a spoon, gobbling it down, and it didn’t appear to affect his behavior or sleep that night. A couple of days later, as I was picking him up from daycare, he asked for some more ice cream, so we stopped at the local corner store on the way home.
Gus is the youngest child in his daycare, and Thea had to make a special exception for him. She was hesitant to take any child younger than 3, but when she met him and spent some time with him, she figured she would give him a try. But after the other day ... we are hoping that was a one-off, as he hasn’t had a problem sleeping at daycare until then.
After I picked him up at Thea’s that day, it didn’t take but about five minutes before he fell asleep in his car seat. He was so conked out that I was able to unbuckle him, carry him inside and lay him down on the sofa, where he snoozed for another 30 minutes or so.
Ten-thirty was the latest he’s ever stayed up, but we have had days where he wouldn’t nap. One of the things Becky and I constantly berate ourselves over is our failure to get Gus to nap at home. He took regular naps at his first daycare provider and my aunt, who takes care of him once a week, has never had a problem with getting him to sleep for two or three hours. But when it’s my turn to take care of Gus, usually on the weekends when Becky can devote a good solid eight hours each day to her freelance work, I always end up packing him into the car and going for a "snooze cruise." If I’m lucky, after he falls asleep I find a quiet place to park and do some reading or listen to a podcast through my earbuds. But, more often than not, Gus will wake up for a few minutes and mutter "Drive, daddy," and it’s back on the road. I’ll cruise through Starbucks and get a cup of joe for the ride (OK, I know, there are plenty of local coffee shops around, but for drive through it’s either the ‘Bucks or Dunkin’ Donuts and the latter just doesn’t cut it for me). And I know, I know ... it’s not exactly eco-friendly to drive aimlessly while my child sleeps, but I have been down some really nice back country roads since Gus was born! And until you have a child that just won’t nap, I have two words for you: Don’t judge.
We’ve noticed that when Gus skips naps, stays up a little late or sleeps in past his normal 7 a.m. wake-up time, it often signals a developmental shift is going on inside his toddler brain. So I wasn’t really surprised that he refused to sleep for Thea last week. After all, he is the youngest child that she cares for and he has suddenly been thrust into this new environment with kids between 3 and 6 years old. He always has been an observant little guy (in fact, Becky and I often joke that we should have named him Giles, after a character from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), so now he gets to watch the older kids and tag along with their activities. At the same time he’s had to learn how to communicate better. In just the two weeks that he’s been going to Thea’s we’ve seen a remarkable advancement in his vocabulary and how he expresses himself. Perhaps that would have happened anyway, but I believe exposing him to older children and new experiences helps him to grow and learn.
We hope last week’s no-nap day was just a glitch, because Thea is a wonderful care provider and we are looking forward to him being with her three days a week for the next three years. As everyone knows, child care that is good and is compatible with your own standards can be hard to find. We got pretty lucky when we found Thea. Hopefully we can keep her.
Bob Audette is the day managing editor at the Brattleboro Reformer, and proud father of Gus. He can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 160, or firstname.lastname@example.org.