You know what I love about life? I love the part where the lessons have been gleaned, and the lightbulb moments have happened. I love the victory, the happy ending. I suppose it’s human nature. We love the finish line celebration, but cringe thinking of the work of the actual race. Slogging through the rough parts to get to the good stuff – and it’s what’s necessary for the good stuff to actually BE good stuff.
It’s ironic really, how time works.
I want him to leave. I want the uncomfortable and the ugly-cry and the yuckiness of farewell to just be OVER. I want the heart-hurt for my kids to be eased. I hate this part. I’m not a fan of transitions, never have been. Messy equals uncomfortable and learning and growing. I am looking forward to being through the yuck to get through to the good stuff of self-reliance, pride, and looking forward to homecoming. And yet, I am hating the constant ticking by of the clock reminding us that our time together is limited. I think that’s what sucks about crap week in general – it’s the constant push-pull of wanting them to stay and needing them to leave – to get over the bridge of yuck into the land of hopeful anticipation.
If this process has taught me anything, it’s that there is no escape from the yuck. It just has to be sat in and gone through. Any attempt to numb, ignore, push down or stuff will only lead to more pain. Just gotta ride the crap wave; cringing, clawing, and refusing to let go of the flaming surfboard as it returns to shore. That’s essentially what deployments feel like, in a nutshell. Adulting and managing life while everything is on fire.
Here I shall sit, in the crap. Thank you God for coffee, and dogs, and amazing kids.
Grit is something we military spouses have in spades, whether we want it or not.
Facing another deployment, I’m finding that they never get easier. It’s so easy to talk about deployments in abstract terms when living shore duty life. We make plans and assure ourselves that the kids will be fine, we’ll get through it, no biggie. We’ve done it before. Then promptly push the thought immediately out of our minds because we know the time will come and it’s just too damn hard to think about, so we put the thought in the “later” box.
Later is now and the box is being ripped open.
The platitudes of “you just get stronger” sound hollow and tinny. I’ve written about the positives of deployment and the first time experience with kids, but I am smack dab in the middle of crap week (the week right before they leave where life just sucks because you know the painful “fair winds” and “see you soons” are merely days away and you keep trying not to think about it, but you can’t and did I mention it sucks?) and I don’t feel very positive.
So I’m riding the crap wave. It looks like this:
I will get back to the pulling up my big girl britches, but right now they are scratchy and chafing.
In an effort to feel the feels and just get through it, (as opposed to stuffing feelings and numbing out, neither of which are helpful in the long term) I made a sappy playlist. Music is therapy in many ways and why not just wallow in the awfulness for just a bit? Then I get sick of my sad self and move on with said big girl britches firmly in place. Here’s what I got:
Tonight I Wanna Cry – Keith Urban
Come Home Soon – SheDaisy
I Have Nothing – Whitney Houston
Never Tear Us Apart – INXS
Stay – Sugarland
Stay With Me – Sam Smith
Hurts – Emile Sande
Everybody Hurts – REM
Hearts a Mess – Goyte
Ship to Wreck – Florence + the Machine
I Can’t Stop Thinking About You – Sting
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor
As Long As You Love Me – Justin Bieber
All I Want to Do – Sugarland
Can I Be With You – Todd Agnew
I Try – Macy Gray
A Little More – Machine Gun Kelly
Lose Yourself – Eminem
Shatter Me – Lindsey Stirling
Praying – Ke$ha
Take U There – Skrillex & Diplo
Shake it Out – Florence + the Machine
Rise Up – Imagine Dragons
Rise – Eddie Vedder
Faith – George Michael
You are the Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne
Circles – I see MONSTAS
Bird Set Free – Sia
Alive – Sia
Help Me Run Away – St. Lucia
Whatever It Takes – Imagine Dragons
(I like it When You) Smile – Harry Connick, Jr.
It’s a Great Day to Be Alive – Travis Tritt
Lay Down and Dance – Garth Brooks
Unstoppable – The Score
Yeah, there are some gems and guilty pleasures in there. What songs would you add to a sad therapy playlist? What helps you get through deployments and the crappy transitions weeks just before departure?
….Tra-la-la-la-la….skipping happily through summer, making delicious vegetarian meals for my family to savor as we gather around the table for dinner every evening…after playing merrily through our warm South Texas days….
Yeah. Keep dreaming. We are also smack dab in the middle of Crap Week. What’s Crap Week, you ask? Oh, let me explain. Crap Week is defined as anywhere from 1-3 weeks for a military family right before the service person departs. We are down to the last few days. It’s a flurry of last minute preparations, last one-on-one dates with the kids, family adventures and trying to inhale as much of him as we can. Meanwhile, he’s reminding me of house duties like replacing the filters, where the water shut off valve is, and mentioning oil change schedules, blah, blah, blah, I-can’t-hear-you-because-I’m-in-denial, blah, blah, blah. In the midst of this, I decide that going meatless is genius. I’ll wait while you cease snort laughing.
Here’s what actually happened last night:
As per usual, the kids decided to lose their minds right around 3:30-4pm. Convenient considering that that is when I’m deciding on and prepping for dinner, hubby coming home, etc. (And by “etc.”, I mean finishing up a video game that I was playing with my son, but I got engrossed in, far after he’d lost interest and moved on to antagonizing his sister, who is simply trying to watch Moana for the 873rd time. At full volume.) I reluctantly shut off the game, erasing the evidence that I’d crushed my high score.
I had planned to make yummy burgers, since I’m sure poor hubby has been craving them as we adventure into meatless territory. Finding a mere 1,876 recipes for black bean vegan burgers online, I picked one based on ingredients I had on hand. Toasting the buns we had leftover from another meatless miss, I pull them out of the oven to notice tiny little green spots.
Mold. I have moldy buns. My delicious made-with-only-4-ingredients-whole-wheat buns have grown green hair patches. Luckily I have 4 more buns of the preservative-laden “sit on the shelf and not mold for 6 months” variety. I quickly pop them under the broiler to toast while I whip up my “burgers”.
Taking them out of the oven, I eye them dubiously. I look at Eric, who is also surveying the mess. I think I know in my heart of hearts how this is going to end, as does he. He puts on a brave face for me, since I’ve already tossed the first round of moldy buns – he feels bad that this will likely all end up in the trash.
I even made this yummy plate of veggie toppings for what were going to be scrumptious burgers! Sadly, Hannah mistook the purple onion for some purple cabbage and couldn’t figure out why her mouth was burning! “Why would the cabbage be so spicy, Mom?”
Eric took a bite and smiled at me, chewing slowly. I looked at him and asked, “How bad is it?!”
“Just try a bite,” he said, struggling to swallow.
It should be noted that when someone smells something awful, what is the first thing they do? YES! They offer it to someone else to smell the awfulness. I believe the same could be said of taste. “This is so gross! Here, you try it!”
I bit into it.
I immediately stood up, grabbed my plate, spit my bite out, dashed over to the kitchen and dumped it all into the trash. Hannah refused to try it after our reactions, and I didn’t blame her one bit. We were all laughing at the ridiculousness.
He made a box of mac and cheese for him and Hannah. Jacob (who’d already eaten his usual dinner and was unaffected by all of this nonsense) accompanied me to Freebirds where I had a decent dinner that I didn’t have to prepare.
I’ll call it far from perfect, but funny for sure!
We military spouses have a distinct advantage when it comes to the excitement department: homecoming.
There is no word that stirs such excitement, anticipation, and impatience like knowing your spouse is coming home from a long deployment. My spouse recently came home after a 1 year deployment cycle, and as each one comes and goes, the excitement of their return never wanes. Being our first deployment with children, it definitely ratcheted the excitement level up a few notches. There is nothing like watching the pure glee on the face of your child as they wrap their little arms around their daddy for the first time after far too long.
My neighbor and I were sitting at my kitchen table chatting over coffee about homecoming emotion and we both ended up glassy-eyed and thick-throated. We daydream about how the kids will react, what we will all wear, and all the preparation that goes into welcoming home the missing piece of ourselves. As we talked, we relayed past homecoming experiences, kid reactions, homecomings we watched on YouTube and other friends’ experiences.
Like my friend at our last duty station that didn’t tell her children that daddy was coming home, but wrapped him in a refrigerator box with a bow. They opened their “surprise” the next morning. Or the parents that surprise their kids by picking them up at school, at their baseball games, or anywhere unexpected.
It’s written all over the kids’ faces through their tears. Their reactions strike right to the heart of relief, anticipation, and excitement.
And no matter how many times our families go through this process, a military homecoming never fails in the excitement department.
So often, I rush in as the mom to “help” my husband with the kids.
Regardless of whether or not he asks for my help.
Especially after a deployment, it is so incredibly easy to just jump in and handle any situation with the kids. I’ve been doing it the whole deployment anyway, so why stop now? What I’ve come to realize is that I need to consciously take a step back and let him get back into the groove of being home and handling the kids. Even if it’s bumpy. Even when it’s not how I would do things. Different is just that – different. But it’s not wrong. (You would be correct in assuming that I have tendencies toward perfectionism and controlling behavior.) But, I’m working on perfecting that!
I wasted no time after Eric’s homecoming to get out of the house, mostly for my own sanity, but also to give the minions and their dad a chance to reconnect, without my interference – well intentioned though it may be. Sometimes I get it right. Often I jump in and have to back track. And sometimes I get it all messed up.
Tonight though, tonight was one done right. Eric had assumed that Jacob was done with dinner and tossed his last piece of pizza. (Jacob said he was done, left the table and went in the other room to play.) 30 minutes later, Jacob comes in and wants his last piece of pizza. Eric looked at me, feeling horrible, looked back to Jacob and said, “I’m so sorry, buddy. You said you were done. I tossed the last piece.” Jacob then sighs that big 4-year-old sigh, slumps his shoulders and whines, “But I wasn’t donnnnnnnnne!” (In my mind, I know this kid loves this Hot Rock Pizza we get at the farmer’s market, I would have saved it for breakfast, but whatever. Eric was cleaning up, the kid said he was done – so I didn’t give it another thought. )
Instead of rushing in to try to soothe Jake, I whispered to Eric (who still felt bad) that perhaps he could offer him a pudding. That way, the dessert came from Daddy and they could work it out between them. Eric’s face lit up, Jacob was more than happy to have a pudding, and all was right with the world once again.
How easy it would have been to rush in and get a pudding for Jake and undermine Eric, not to mention make him feel even worse. I think as mothers, especially after a long deployment, it’s “just easier to do it” ourselves. But then they don’t get to be the hero. They don’t get to stretch their parenting legs and get back into their groove. If we are to model a marriage for our kids, shouldn’t we show them how to treat a spouse by example? We don’t always get it right, but we love and respect each other in our marriage. We trust each other. Our actions are our best lessons to our kids on how to treat each other. (Not to mention what to look for in a potential mate.)
I love watching my husband be the hero his is to our kids.
Oh mama, there really isn’t anything I can tell you to prepare for this adventure. It is hard. Simple as that.
There are days (hours, minutes) that are going to feel like forever. Dragging so slow you swear it’s been an hour and it’s only been 4 minutes. Groundhog days where you lose yourself in the day-to-day-ness of dishes, diapers, and duty.
You’ll miss your spouse so much you’ll feel it physically. You’ll begrudge any happy couple you see, only because it reminds you of what is missing right now.
There will be days that nothing goes right and you’ll wonder if it’s even worth it. Then you’ll get that call, hear their voice, and get the recharge you need to get through another few days or weeks until you get to hear that voice again.
Believe it or not, there may even be times when you don’t want them to call. It’s normal to feel that way. They are so starved for details of our days, yet can tell us very little, it’s a very one-sided conversation. After a really challenging day, the idea of relaying and reliving it again can be just too exhausting.
There will be the days that you are okay, but the kids are hot messes asking for daddy. Those are the days that rip your guts out. But you’ll get through those, too. Those are the moments that will toughen you up so you can set your pain aside to be the soft spot for your kids to land. You’ll be able to hold it together so they can fall apart.
There will be days when your non-military friends will remark on how fast the deployment is going and you’ll muster up the restraint to keep from punching them.
Then you’ll realize you’re halfway through. Maybe it isn’t so bad. As the calendar ticks down the days, the ache begins to lessen.
There will be really good days that will have only just a tinge of sadness because you couldn’t share it with your spouse.
There will be kick-butt days when you fix that bike, fix the car, or do whatever it is that you thought you couldn’t do. And you will feel that pride.
Those pride moments are powerful. As much as the recharging phone calls, these are the ones that carry you through when you want to just give up.
You’ll wipe the tears, you’ll chat with a dear friend, you’ll laugh, you’ll go to dinner, you’ll pull up your bootstraps, and you’ll keep moving. You’ll put one foot in front of the other. You’ll take one day at a time, one moment, one glass of spilled milk, one diaper change at a time. You’ll reach out if you need help. You’ll link arms with your fellow spouses and friends. You’ll make plans. You’ll workout. You’ll make goals. Even small ones like “keep the kids alive today”, and celebrate your achievements.
You may not realize it now, but the you that starts this deployment will not be the same person finishing it.
“Last 2 episodes of Deadliest Catch until we can watch them together.”
“The next grocery run, I’ll be stocking the fridge with his favorites.”
“The next time I mop the floor, will be the last time I mop it before he gets back!”
And on it goes. Sigh. The finish line is right there….
Today started rainy (it’s been rainy for the past couple of days and the kids are going absolutely CRAZY with cabin fever.) My kids need fresh air and exercise in large doses daily! They are also greatly anticipating Eric’s return with the countdown refreshed every morning. Everyday becomes a day to distract.
Just keep swimming.
With the rain, we headed to our favorite indoor playground. Then by the time that was over, we headed over to my sister’s place to visit and catch up. By the time we got home, the kids were antsy, ready to be out of the car and the weather had cleared. So outside we went. On a bike ride.
Based on this day, I should always just carry bike tools with me.
Somehow the hand brake on Jake’s bike got jacked up and the back wheel completely locked. It’s moments like these that I am so thankful for fitness and my body’s strength. It’s not always about hitting the gym and going faster on a dumb treadmill. It’s not about lifting a barbel. Working out just for the sake of working out can be awesome, but it’s the resulting strength I have grown to depend upon. It’s the times when I need that strength for doing stuff, everyday stuff. LIke today when I had to walk my bike and simultaneously CARRY my son’s bike, which is NOT light.
I confess, as more than one car slowed down to look at me – I smiled every time. That’s right. This sucks. But I got it.
I’m tired. The kids are tired. But we are slogging through, marking another red X on the calendar.