We need to talk about car naps: When leaving the house is a dangerous game

Parenting and life

Car naps are a big pile of crap.

I don’t mean when you have a baby.

When you have a baby, the car nap is bliss.

If your baby is one of those screamy won’t-sleep-in-the-cot types, it can be your saviour.

Strap them in screaming and by the time you hit the motorway, they’ll probably be flat out giving you that elusive me-time, although given that you’re driving you’re a bit limited on what you can use it for.

Still, if you tune into Heart FM and sing along loudly to 90s classics it’s probably the most fun you’ll have that day.

It’s by no means guaranteed, but it’s a good a method as any. There is a reason that at night, the roads are full of zombie-like parents, driving around aimlessly, forgetting why they are there or where they live. Probably.

When they get a little older, the car nap can be quite convenient if timed well.

We used to have passes for a zoo which was around an hour away. The small one would sleep on the way there, and then again on the way back, meaning I didn’t have to fight with him at all and we got a nice (albeit short) day out into the bargain.

Then he dropped to one nap, and it became slightly tricky, but manageable.

If the car journey was in the morning, he would fall asleep. He wouldn’t tend to if the return journey was in the afternoon, having slept already, although we were used to spending hours getting him to sleep at night anyway so it made no difference if he did drop off.

If we were driving over lunchtime, it might just work out perfectly.

car seat sleep

However since he dropped his nap, the car nap (the ‘twatnap’ as it has lovingly become known, due to the effect it has on general behaviour) has become the bane of all of our lives.

This week has been the second in the Easter holidays, and as a result we’ve been doing a few day trips. Usually nowhere exciting, just out and about to save my sanity.

For the last two days, this has resulted in 5pm car naps which have, in turn, led to VERY late nights for him.

This just will not do. I need my child-free time to do things like watch TV (as an aside I have just binge-watched the entire two series of Santa Clarita Diet; loved it. But not something suitable for a two year old, really).

On Monday they both fell asleep on a car journey.

There was traffic and I didn’t hit home until 6pm, by which point they had both been asleep for over an hour.

Asleep in the car. DOOOM

As we tried to put them to bed, we knew we were wasting our time.

After about half an hour of pissing about, both children ended up coming downstairs to watch The Last Jedi with us, which is fine because having someone ask ‘Is he a goodie or a baddy?’ every minute and a half really adds to the general Star Wars experience.

That night, I took him up to bed with me when I went. It did not, as a damn fool might predict, result in a decent morning lie-in, so the next day he was tired and as soon as he went in the car on our way home – BAM – the eyes were shut and the cycle started all over again.

I joked that I would be too scared to leave the house today in case it happened again, but upon being woken at 6.50 by two children shouting at each other I realised it might actually not be a bad idea to have a day in the house on napwatch.

Christ, it’s never not a bad idea to stay in. That’s all I’m saying.

So how to stop the car naps (if not using the car is not an option)?

Asleep - car naps in the Axkid Minikid

He can quite happily fall asleep in front of a TV show or film; even something as exciting as Paw Patrol can’t keep his attention if he’s en route to the land of nod. The radio blaring makes no difference.

A game of I-spy failed spectacularly when he fell asleep mid sentence and my proposed family singalong came to an abrupt end when my daughter told me ‘please, mummy, please stop’. So that was nice.

I have been told that games on a tablet can help them to keep their brain active but I’m not sure I’d trust him; he’d probably send some awkward emails, watch a YouTube video that would give us all nightmares and turn everything Chinese.

And he’d probably still fall asleep to be honest.

Help. Me?

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We need to talk about car naps: When driving after 2pm puts you in dangerous territory. How do you stop your child falling asleep in the car?! #toddlers #naps #parenting #momlife #mumlife


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