As hard as the first year of parenting is, I remember reminiscing about sleepless nights with a newborn when my daughters turned into toddlers. There was no rest for the weary, which is why I loved taking a walk down memory lane with Naptime is the New Happy Hour by Stephanie Wilder-Taylor. Now that my oldest daughter is a tween, things like temper tantrums and timeouts are something I remember with a smile since I’m faced with slamming doors and rolling eyes.
It’s for this reason that I really enjoyed the chapter on Little Dictators. Wilder-Taylor writes,“Even though it’s possibly the most difficult part of parenting, we’ve all witnessed enough bad-behaving starlets to know that kids need limits and boundaries.” She shares her own entertaining adventures in parenting to prove this isn’t easy and admits that the look on her child’s face when she begs to get out of timeout is heartbreaking. “Despite the pain in my chest and my certainty that this would end up in the movie version of her life, I calmly and wordlessly put her back in.”
Like most parenting books I blog about, Wilder-Taylor recognizes the need for consistency; however, unlike most authors, she also tells it to readers straight. “The sad fact is, even if you’re as consistent as Mary freakin’ Poppins, all the time-outs in the world won’t stop your child from being a moody, irrational tyrant one day and more charming than Patrick Dempsey the next,” argues Wilder-Taylor. While Naptime is the New Happy Hour acknowledges acting out is often a phase, it does warn if your child makes “your life miserable for no discernible reason [it] may be missing something vital in their life: the word NO. Look into it.”
Wilder-Taylor also recommends that you not let others’ actions make you feel inadequate. She recalls how spying a toddlers’ full schedule on another Mother’s palm pilot gave her pause. “For approximately two seconds I felt completely inadequate.” But Wilder-Taylor quickly remembered that “down-time is a toddler’s God-given right,” believing “it’s bad enough that our tweens are this stressed, but do we now have to throw our little toddlers into the rat race?”
For example, despite the American Academy of Pediatrics claiming children aren’t physically capable of truly learning to swim until age four, Wilder-Taylor points out that it doesn’t stop parents from signing up their kids for swim lessons, along with a host of other happenings. Therefore, Naptime is the New Happy Hour reminds readers that “Studies show that too much activity can be damaging to a young child anyway. Overscheduling not only hampers a toddler’s creativity and ability to entertain himself, but it can also overstimulate him.”
Granted, Wilder-Taylor recognizes that spending countless hours with toddlers can be draining; however, that’s why she devotes an entire chapter on the importance of getting help. She insists doing everything yourself is not possible and Wilder-Taylor claims only rely on your husband if “you’re okay having time for yourself only every other leap year when he agrees to take the kids to the zoo and then brings them back an hour later.”
She urges parents, “Don’t make the mistake of convincing yourself you can’t afford it because really, you can’t afford not to have it.” And as she provides parents with options of swapping time and services, I thought of all the times my friend, Pepper, saved my sanity by inviting my youngest over for a play date just in the nick of time.
But my favorite chapter by far was the one on Date Night and other Urban Legends. I laughed out loud, while reading Wilder-Taylor words. “I don’t give a rat’s ass how many books tell you that you can still look foxy and have lots of sex. After thirteen hours of providing meal service, thinking about cleaning the house, and lying on the floor playing dollhouse with my three-year-old, I don’t usually have the energy to run the TiVo myself, much less violate any local sodomy laws. Sorry to be a downer here, but your old life is over!”
Therefore, she recommends simply trying to make the most of the short time you have once you’ve put the kids to bed. Like she suggests, I leave all mess until the morning, opting instead to nurture my tired soul with some alone time or chats with my hubby. Because unfortunately, as your children age, you’ll quickly realize that it doesn’t mean your social life returns rather theirs blossoms.
That’s why Wilder-Taylor dreams up this hysterical imaginary commercial for prenatal vitamins, which “could show an extraordinarily loving family blissfully frolicking on the beach, while a soothing voice-over quickly rattles off the side-effects, hoping you won’t notice.” Insomnia. Hypersensitivity. Fatigue. You can guess what’s on her list.
By the time Naptime is the New Happy Hour ends and Wilder-Taylor is pregnant with twins, we see the wisdom in her advice. “Learn to embrace the chaos, because it’s too big to fight.” And wonder why hindsight must always be 20/20. Changing the clocks to put my kids in bed earlier is a great idea I should have thought of sooner. Luckily, moms of young children don’t have to because Stephanie Wilder-Taylor’s book will not only provide some practical advice but a lot of laughs as well for she truly captures all the frustrating yet wonderful parts of parenting.
Read my other blog Befriending Forty.