Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Parenting Woes

My oldest child, Aden, is on the brink of teendom. He's only 11, but going on 22. Thus far in the four months of the current school year, I've encountered many parenting obstacles. Suddenly, our "good" kid is acting out in numerous ways and forms. I want to shake him and make him tell me what is going on in his world, but I cannot do that. I want to baracade him in his room until he's of adult age, but again, that's not possible. Instead, I'm going to use this post as a vent, a sort of outlet, before I lose my mind.

My Dearest Aden,

I wish I could tell you that at 33 years old, I know the secrets to life, success, and the world. But, I don't. I cannot even pretend that I know the secrets to parenting. Afterall, you are our eldest, our guinea pig. Just when I think I have you figured out and have the rules made to cover everything, you grow up and you find loopholes.
As your mom, it is not only my job to love and protect you, provide you with food, clothing, and a roof over your head, but it is also to provide you with a sense of moral and value, and the tools so that you can function successfully as an adult. The term success can be defined as many things, but in this house and in my eyes, success means happiness. Happiness is not easily found as an adult when you're thrusted into the cold, harsh world. One can make all the money in the world to afford anything they desire in life, but it doesn't mean they are happy.

There were no rule books given to me at your birth, even though I wish there were. There are no definitive lines. Most of parenting is grey. Sometimes I have to rely on my instincts, and honestly, I have to learn to trust them. Sometimes I just want to reach out and hold you tight, but the lessons you must learn are more important than the knot in the pit of my stomach. I overreact often, it is in my nature. And sometimes, dare I say, I am wrong.
In a few years, you'll be starting down this long and bumpy road of teen self-discovery. It doesn't really end, I'm afraid, until your mid-twenties. I wish I could give you a peice of paper that certified you as who you are, but it doesn't work like that. I'll hold your hand when you want me to. I'll guide you to the best of my ability. I'll watch you from afar, when you won't even know I'm there. I'll bit my lip to keep from picking you up when you fall, for you'll have to learn to pick yourself back up and brush yourself off.  Right now son, you're just staring at the road signs pointing out that harsh road. The choices you make now, directly affect your future.
You're growing up and that means I'm growing too. I'm learning along the way, the same as you. I wish I could tell you that I have this all down pat and I've done this all before. But I don't.

Hopefully, when you're a grown adult, lightbulbs will go off and you'll understand the reasons your dad and I do the things we do and say the things we say. Until then, you'll have to trust that we know what we're talking about. Well, at least most of the time.

The most important thing is that we love you.

Your Ma

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Looming D Word

First of all, I want to say that I am incredibly thankful that my husband will be home this holiday season and potentially, next holiday season. I am thankful for the time he does get to spend with the kids and I. This blog isn't about being unappreciative. It's about the emotions of an upcoming deployment.

I knew Jeff would be deploying in the spring at some point of time. I knew it would be for six to eight months. I knew the job, generally speaking, that he would be carrying out. I knew it all. I've done this five or six other times. In fact, we just went through a six deployment from June to December of last year.

Now that a potential departure date has been released, it seems more real. It's also heartbreaking, because he could possibly be leaving on my birthday. Of course, it's all potential and if you know anything about the military, don't write anything in pen. Have a backup plan for your backplan. Everything changes all the time and without warning. 

Having done this before doesn't mean it will be easier. I remember a chief's wife telling me at my first Readiness Group Meeting, "Oh you get used to it." Yeah, after 12.5 years of being a military spouse, I don't really think that I have gotten used to it or that it has gotten easier. Perhaps my coping skills have gotten more refined. But, I've never get used to sleeping alone, worrying about my husband, or kissing away the tears of my children who miss their father.

As any seasoned military spouse can and will tell you, what can happen on deployment, will happen. It seems karma brings all it's downfalls in the time that our spouses are deployed.  A lot of us spouses are hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from our closest family and/or friend. Most of us do it alone. Last deployment, I took all three children to the ER with me, twice. The nurse who called me back asked if there was someone I could call for the chlidren. Uh no, not really. And that was only in the first two months of Jeff's deployment.

I'm really not looking forward to spending six to eight more months without my husband. I hate it. I go into survivor mode and never really know how exhausted I am until I see him step foot off that boat during homecoming. It's rough, I'm not going to lie. And I know a lot of folks have it worse. It doesn't make it any easier to know that.

I really just don't want to do it. But I know it's coming. It won't get here any slower just because I'm kicking and screaming or dragging my feet. Time will still move forward and he will be whisked away.

I never get used to sleeping alone, even though I joke that I have to get used to sleeping with him again when he returns. The nights are lonely, especially after the kids are in bed. Even though I am exhausted at the end of the day, it doesn't feel as if my day is complete because I haven't talked with him. And that's the part that I miss the most: companionship. Some wives joke it's the sex and it is, to an extent. But more than that, it's the conversation, the watching of television together, the waiting for each other before we retire for the night. It's going to bed next to the man I love and listening to him breathe as I fall asleep. It's the way our four year old daughter chants his name when he walks in the door from work like he's a rockstar - she won't be doing that for six months. It's the emptiness in the pit of my stomach. It's the moments I want to share with him but he's not here to experience them. It's the honor roll recognitions of the boys in school or a birthday or a holiday. It's our 13th anniversary that he will miss. It's the breaking down into tears at some stupid song or commerical on television. It's making his favorite dish for dinner and knowing he's not here to enjoy it. It's finding a sock or shirt that missed the laundry for the first couple of months. It's sleeping with his pillow. It's giving our children two hugs and kisses, one for me and one for daddy. It's answering the tough questions that little ones ask and explaining things to the older ones who have more of a grasp of what their father's job entails. It's tackling simple tasks like grocery shopping with all three kids. It's dealing with behavior outbursts appropriately - is it normal behavior or rebelllion because daddy is gone. It's turning to tell him something and then feeling silly because he's not there. It's the mountains of emails I send because my heart is hurting and my soul is brusied. It's the being strong because I have to, when I really just want to retreat into the fetal position.

I simply don't want to do it again. I've had my fill. But it's coming, whether I want it to or not. It's going to happen. His departure date will be here faster than I know it. The months are going to fly. The days are going to go by in doubletime.
I will watch him pack his seabag. I will listen as he explains paperwork like Powers of Attorney, his wills in the event that something happens to him, his specifics on his Page 2. I will lie awake all night watching him sleep. I will move in slow motion, trying to slow time down. I will talk with my children. I will drive him to base. I will watch from the pier as his ship moves away. I will curse the tugboats taking him away from me. I will stand there with my three children until we cannot see his ship any longer. And then I will stand there some more, hoping that the knot in my stomach and the anchors tied to my shoes will go away so that I can move. I will drive back to our home with tears streaming down my face. I will try to sound strong for my children. I will hug my little one and tell her it'll be alright. I will tell her that daddy's job is very important. I will tell her how he protects us from the badguys. I will try to hug my oldest one and tell him not to bottle up his emotions. I will ask, repeatedly, if he is ok only to get his nodded head in response. I will answer the millions of questions our middle child will have. I will grow weary. I will grow weak. And we will start, that day, our countdown until he is back home with us.
We will send care packages and pictures. We will make videos of us laughing and proclaiming our love for him. We will send emails saying how much we miss him. We will get through each day, because that's what we do. There isn't any other option.
We will get excited at the halfway point. We will celebrate our survival. We will continue to countdown. And when we are one month to having our Jeff home with us once again, time will taunt us. While she sped up the months and days before his departure, she will slow down in the weeks before his arrival.
The night before, we won't sleep. We will make signs and decorate our home. We will, once again, roll out the red carpet, and put up our Daddy banners. We will write on our car windows. We will get our flags ready. We will lie awake thinking the sweet thoughts of having Jeff home and life becoming  "normal" once again.
The next morning, I will do my hair, getting frustrated and downright emotional over the curl that won't stay. I will put my makeup on, smudging my mascara at least five times. I will smooth my clothes out while looking at my reflection, hoping that I'm as he remembered me and that he still thinks I'm the most beautiful woman in the world. My stomach holds butterflies as my throat holds my heart. I will dress our little one in a new fabulous outfit. We will leave for the pier way too early. We will sit in the van, until people we know start to arrive. We will laugh and talk with everyone else, but we will continue to be preoccupied with catching the first glimpse of the ship's mast over the other ships in port. We will cheer, hoot, and holler when it finally comes into sight. I will jump up and down like an adolescent school girl, and I'll feel like one too.
Time will yet again laugh at me as we wait for the ship to get to the pier. I will once again curse those tugs for being so painfully slow. I will watch intensely as the brow is put on the ship.I will jump around and move so that I can see my sailor coming off that ship. I will run to him. I will cry. I will feel complete. The kids will run. They will hug their daddy tightly. Jeff will be bombarded by the four of us who have missed him dearly for the last six months.
We will drive home to the sounds of the kids chattering over each other, catching their dad up on the last six months. He will smile and wink at me. I will still be grinning from ear to ear.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Herstory (To Be Confused with History) Part (I lost count)

I seemed to get in a little more than my fare share of trouble when I was younger. I don't know if it's because I was an only child or if it was because maybe I wasn't so good at lying. Either way, if there was trouble to get into, I was knee deep in it. Particularly when it came to writing.
It wasn't until much later in life that I came to realize the power of the word, written or spoken. One would think I'd have learned, or at least should have learned, by the numerous things I wrote down that resulted in my hide getting tanned. Apparently, I'm thick headed.
Take for instance the bus incident. Well, there were too many of those to count. The one I'm talking about is where I made out my wedding plans.  Oh yeah. I wrote them all down. How many and who were to be my bridesmaids. Who I was going to marry. What my wedding colors were going to be. Where I was going to take my honeymoon. Every detail was mapped out on a single, solitary piece of paper, right down to how many kids I was going to have and what their names would be.
Now, I'm sure, every girl dreams of their wedding day. This, however, was a bit different. I just knew I this was going to be my wedding. Period. End of story. Come Hell or high water, I was going to marry this young boy who never even knew I existed. And we were going to have purple and green colors in a single story country church and vacation in Austrailia.
Somehow, my perfect plan escaped my notebook and ended up on the bus floor. And somehow that piece of paper ended up in the back of the bus where the cool kids sat. Imagine my embarrassment. Imagine my dispair. Imagine how furious my best friends felt when word got around that they were going to be my bridesmaids. I hadn't even asked them yet!
That day was a very lonely day. I piece of my heart was torn into shreds as the kids around me mocked and laughed at my dreams. Even my BFFs seemed to slowly seperate themselves from my company. I don't know how long it took before kids finally quit making fun of me.
If that wasn't enough, I got into trouble once during computer time at school. It was Freebie Friday. We could write whatever we wanted on the computer and even print it out. We could play a game. (Back then it was just Oregon Trail. No fancy World of Warcraft or SIMS just yet.) We could do whatever we wanted on that computer.  I knew I wanted to write a story on that computer, print it out and save it forever. I loved writing. Mom always said I should be a journalist. I could tell a story with more color than Crayola! And boy did I!
I had a crush on this boy Dean March. He was a tall, lanky kid. Dean had red hair and freckles, much like most of my uncles. He had real nice blue eyes. His teeth were a little crooked, but I liked his smile anyway. He had all sisters so I figured he'd know a thing or two about girls. And so, I wrote a story about Dean March.
I didn't know what was so bad about it until I grew up. I wrote my story about Dean March and it was a piece of writing that was so descriptive it got me kicked off the computers for the rest of the school year. I had imagined, in my mind, that one doesn't just have freckles in just the places people can see. I had bet that a person with as many freckles as Dean March had even had them in his hair. I thought he even had them inbetween his toes and armpits!! So, what could be more inclusive and descriptive than to say, "Dean Martin has freckles everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean: Everywhere." Who knew writing a few sentences about  freckles could get someone in so much trouble?