We have always had a well-established napping routine in our home. I worked hard to get my second child into a one-nap-a-day routine as quickly as possible so that both of my boys would sleep at the same time each day. I needed this to happen so that we weren't stuck at home all day with one boy or the other sleeping, but I also needed to have a couple of hours alone. A couple hours of NOT nursing someone, changing someone's diapers, answering questions or cries.
Those boys went on to nap solidly into their sevens, as did their sister after them. Then came Canaan. By the time Canaan was born, I only had one napping child. The oldest children were well out of naps, but I'd kept the routine going anyway, calling it Quiet Time. At 1:00 every SINGLE day, all children filed into bedrooms, and they stayed there quietly until 3:00 (or later, if they'd fallen asleep).
But as Canaan grew, the older kids got older. They didn't need quiet time any more. They were mature enough to manage their needs on their own. They knew to seek solitude as necessary. And at the same time, I didn't need quiet time either. My children weren't asking nonstop questions. When the baby cried, a big brother tended to him at least as often as I did. The household was running itself pretty smoothly and the demands on Mommy were fewer, even though there were twice as many children.
Around four or so, Canaan stopped needing daily naps. He is not an introvert and does not need time alone like my older boys did. He functioned well throughout the day with no nap and no quiet time. Our 13-year Quiet Time tradition tapered off and finally came to a stop altogether.
A couple days ago, my house seemed too quiet. We were finished with schoolwork, so the dining room table was cleared off and wiped down. I looked around and didn't see any children at all. I started to wander around, wondering where everyone had gone. I found each one doing something either on their own or with a sibling - one listening to music, a couple watching a movie on an iPod, one reading. I gazed at my brand-new high school freshman and thought about how many of those Quiet Times I might like to have back now that I only have a few years left with him under my wing. I considered how valid that need was at the time, how poignant it had been to realize that we were all doing fine without it, and how bittersweet it is to know that now, I truly do not crave "me time". I have a different perspective now. If my 5-year-old climbs on my lap at the exact moment I was hoping to do something alone, I guide his little head back onto my chest and whisper how happy I am that he's mine.
Because in a very few short years, I'll wish I could do that just one more time.