Naptime is not unlike a tropical oasis in the middle of the desert that is stay at home parenting. It’s glorious. It’s during these two blessed hours that I can finally take a shower, put my feet up, and relax.
So a few days ago, when I heard Audrey’s voice cry out, “DADDY!” shortly after being put down for a nap, I pretended not to hear it. My feet were already up, you see, and relaxation was well underway. “DAAAAAADDY!!!” she yelled once more, followed by another, and another, and another. I tried to get her to rest three more times that day, but each failed in spectacular fashion. She just wasn’t going to sleep.
I quickly came to realize that I was to blame for her lack of sleepiness. Audrey had been too sedentary that morning. I hadn’t done enough to burn off some of her baby steam. Armed with this knowledge I took steps to make up for lost time. Five steps to be exact, most of which fall squarely under the categories of “Strange” and “You Sure You Want to Share This with the World?”
Intrigued? I bet you are. Let’s go see what stupid things I did.
Option 1: Just Lie Down on the Floor
This is a tried and true option for me. If I simply lie down on the floor, face up, Audrey will proceed to beat me to a pulp. It’s fun! She’ll start by standing over me, typically with a maniacal grin. Then she’ll jump on my belly. Now, let me be clear here. She’s not falling on me here. She’s jumping on me. You know, for added violence. She’ll also get her elbows and knees involved, and I dare say she is quite good about getting those in the right places on my body. Like the crotch for instance. Or the face.
It’s fun stuff. Especially when it happens two dozen times in a row.
But, it’s also really easy. All I have to do is lie there and make sure that if anyone is feeling pain as a result, it’s me. I also have to ensure that Audrey doesn’t cross a line and start hitting me either. It’s one thing to “Hop on Pop”. It’s another to punch and kick. But it’s still a good starting point for inside-the-house steam burning. Highly recommended if you can take the risk of getting a black eye from a 2-year-old.
Option 2: Build an Exciting Couch Fort
If just being a lazy sack of crap that just lies on the floor isn’t enough, try making a couch fort! It’s easy, especially if your child is around Audrey’s age. All you have to do is remove all the cushions of your couch and put them on the floor. Now that’s not exactly the textbook definition of a fort, I know, but it seems to trigger something inside the mind of a child nevertheless. When Audrey saw the giant cushions on the floor that day her mind seemed to scream, “Jump! Jump on that!” And she did. A lot. Bounce bounce bounce. Jump jump jump. It’s like an indoor trampoline for a child, and we all know how tiring one of those can be.
A suitable alternative to this is to simply let the kid jump on your bed. It’s even bouncier, which is great for him or her, and there’s likely a mirror in the room, which is great for viewing one’s spectacular leaps and bounds. The knock on the bed idea, of course, is that it requires more supervision. You don’t want to have to explain to your wife how your precious bundle of joy got that bump on her head by launching herself missile-like off of the bed, after all.
Option 3: Get on Your Feet and Dance!
Now who doesn’t like to dance? Oh sure, some pimply-faced wallflowers don’t, but the rest of us love it. My daughter and I included. So when Audrey was done jumping on my belly and leaping on and off the couch cushions, we turned on some music and cut a rug instead. This usually happens in the kitchen where there’s more space to shake one’s booty. The stereo’s in there too. I’m not one to play kid’s music for our house party, however. No Wheels on the Bus for me. No, we dance to good stuff, like Marvin Gaye, Heart, and the incomparable Boz Scaggs.
We also don’t really dance. At least not in the way you’d imagine, with feet, hips, and arms moving in rhythm to the music. Oh, I try to do this. I try to dance to the music, but Audrey has other plans when the songs start playing. Basically, her version of dancing involves running around in circles. So that’s what we do. We run in circles. Sometimes I run after her. Sometimes she runs after me. And…sometimes it’s hard to tell who is running after whom. Some other times I’ll break the circle and try to shake my booty some. After all, someone’s got to teach my daughter how to get down. And my skills are LEGENDARY. But she won’t have it. She gets mad at me, yelling “Follow me!” So we get back to running around in circles.
It ain’t dancing, but it still does the trick.
Option 4: Blow Out Your Back with Some Cart Rides
Audrey has this little pushcart. She usually puts her stuffed animals, like Pooh, in it and pushes them around the house. One day, however, I made a mistake. I found Audrey sitting in it and I decided to give her a ride.
First things first: She loved it.
Second things second: It nearly killed me.
Our house is set up so that the rooms form a sort of circle. You can walk from the kitchen to the dining room to the living room and right back into the kitchen in one circuit. Audrey will sometimes run this lap. But since that first day I took her for a cart ride, she’d prefer to travel this way instead. She laughs, she screams, she hoots and hollers. It’s a blast for her, mostly because I’m not slow. No, I push that cart as fast as I can without putting her in any danger. And she loves it.
So why don’t I feel the same way? Well, the handle to the pushcart is only about 18 inches off the ground. Perfect for a child, but for a man of six feet in his mid-thirties, it’s a killer. After about three laps my back is screaming louder than she is and my hamstrings are on fire. A couple more laps and I’m huffing and puffing. She, of course, is begging for more.
Now it’s true that this activity will burn off more steam for the adult than the child, but it definitely does a number on the kid too. All that screaming and cheering is tiring for a 2-year-old, and often leads to some extra running around afterward. Not bad, although personally, I’d say this option is a backup at best, for when you are running out of options.
That said…there are worse options…
Option 5: Dress Up Like a Woman
Okay, okay…let me explain. While that fateful sleepless afternoon involved all four of the above activities, it also involved me wearing some women’s clothing. Now I didn’t plan for this at all. Honest! And while I am pretty secure in my manhood, I’m not exactly one for cross-dressing either. But when your daughter has a bottomless pit of energy and she brings you a necklace and blouse from Mommy’s room to wear…
You wear them.
So I did. And she went bananas. The blouse was funny at first, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the necklace. She put that necklace on me a dozen times before laughing and taking it back off again. Over and over again I was subjected to the nightmare of wearing women’s accessories. Perhaps it was my over the top reaction to this development that led to Audrey’s overjoyed demeanor, or maybe she could already realize the absurdity of it all. Regardless of why she loved it, the point is that she did. A lot. And this endless source of enjoyment got us even closer to burning off those last little bits of baby steam.
Thankfully Audrey did eventually fall asleep that day. But the five options I went with certainly aren’t the best for every kid and situation. Obviously. They were just what I had at my disposal. And that’s the point. I’m sure there are thousands of other good ways to get kids moving indoors, and I’m confident I’ll become well versed in many of them over the coming years. But you can find activities everywhere you look. Everywhere! Just because you’re inside, it doesn’t mean that you should spend all your time sitting and watching Curious George. No.
So pull out your couch cushions! Throw on some Little River Band and run around in circles. Hell, put on some women’s clothes if you’re comfortable!
Just do something. That’s all that matters.
(Although you may want to keep the cross-dressing stuff to yourself.)