Each nap time is different. It can go several different ways - smooth, crazy, or terrible. And as I lay out those institutional looking cots everyday, I stop briefly and wonder how today's nap is going to go.
I always hope for smooth.
The kids come down the stairs like water down a waterfall; seemingly never-ending, and the thought of "We are never going to get them all too sleep", crosses my mind as I smile nicely from the bottom of the stairs and direct them to their own beds.
Then comes the inevitable, "Please lay down on your bed, it's nap time", song that comes out of my mouth every single day, as little bodies jump on their beds, roll around in their blankets, and sit, staring blankly at nothing across the room (those are the really tired kiddos).
And eventually all (except that one little girl who refuses to lay nice, and is instead disrupting an entire side of the nap room by playing, singing, and spitting at the staff) the kids are laying nicely (or at least just laying) on their beds.
The staff, like ghosts (occasionally the ghosts of long gone Dictators, as patience runs thinner and thinner, and voice inevitably rise) move among the children, smoothing the hair over one tired little head here, or gently rubbing circles and figure eights on a deeply breathing back. Sometimes you get one who has to be wrapped up like a little mummy, and must be gently jiggled to sleep.
But still... there is always that one (or in the case of nap time yesterday, two) children who just won't sleep, can't sleep, or are at that awkward stage of only needing naps some days. Which is fine, so long as they lay on their beds nicely, and don't disturb all the children who are sleeping, and who desperately need sleep if their day is going to be smoother in the afternoon.
As they all drift off into sleep, and you get comfortable, sitting with your back against a wall, gently patting the back of that last child who is fighting sleep as hard as they can, you start to feel your own eyes getting heavy. You know, however, that your job is to watch over these slumbering children, and that falling asleep in the nap room is a big no-no.
But the soft breathing, and gentle snoring of 20 sleeping kids is like a lullaby, and the quiet music you, yourself, put on to help the kids sleep is gently rocking you to sleep... and you feel your hand starting to fall still on the now slumbering child's back, and your eyes close slowly.
"A couple minutes", you think to yourself, "that won't hurt". And it's a good thing that your position, leaning against the wall, isn't really as comfortable as you like to think it is, and the stairs creaking terribly when your nap time relief is coming down the stairs, because you cannot fall asleep in the nap room, not even if you stretched out on the carpet between the rows of nap cots.
And in those couple of minutes, when you close your eyes, you're not really sleeping... instead you're saying a silent prayer to whatever God or Goddess you pray to, thanking them for letting the children be able to sleep under these circumstances. Because all morning they had behaviour like little monkeys; running and spitting, biting and pinching. You know their behaviour will improve with their two hour long snooze, and while they sleep you soak in the silence. You let your heart rate slow down, and your stress level drop. You sit in silent meditation as little human furnaces slumber around you, their bodies finally relaxed.
Then, when your relief comes downstairs, and you go up for your own lunch break - the only sound in the center being the 5 Kinders, and 2 non-napping 4 year olds - you remember that for all the fuss, and occasionally, fight, that nap time is... it really benefits more than just the kids. It let's you recharge and relax as well. Have a cup of coffee, or tea (you know, one of those hot drinks you can't have out on The Floor). Read a book. Recharge.
Teachers love nap time too.