Sunday, May 18, 2008

"This is for the civilian girl(s) out there..."

Dear Civilian Girl,

You complain that your boyfriend/ husband has worked late all week and have barely seen him.

*I look forward to the two weeks a year we spend together.

You complain because he doesn't call you enough.

*My heart is thankful for the 15 second phone call I got last Tuesday in the middle of the night!

You whine to your friends about how much you miss him already because he is on a two day trip with his parents.

*I haven't seen him for 7 months now

You don't feel like making love tonight because you are too tired.

We will stay up all night because we don't know when it will be the last time.

Your boyfriend/husband belongs to you.

Mine belongs to the government.

Your boyfriend/husband is training for his game next weekend.

My boyfriend/husband is trained to kill.

It's just not practical for you to drive an hour to see him every weekend during school.

He spends $700 dollars on a plane ticket just to see me for 2 days!

You hate hanging up the phone when talking to him.

My heart breaks because I won't talk to him for another 10 days.

You complain that he doesn't take enough time out of his life for you.

My man has to get up in the middle of the night to talk with me because of the time difference. He doesn't complain.

Your man is in a bad mood from not sleeping much this week.

My man ran 10 miles this morning at 4am and has a full day of
work ahead of him.

He's lucky if he gets a few hours of sleep!

Your boyfriend/husband can call in sick when he is tired or not feeling well.

There is NO calling in sick for the military!

You don't trust him so you follow him places to see if he is telling the truth.

I have no choice but to trust him and even then I trust him with my life.

You don't like him talking so sexually with his friends.

My boyfriend/husband has to chant it in drills.

You check your phone, see you missed a call from him, and decide to call him back when you aren't so busy.

I see a missed a call and cry, because I don't know when he can call again.

You might save a cute voice message from him.

I save them all b/c it helps me to remember what his voice sounds like

Being apart for a month to you seems daunting.

A month apart for me is a wish that can't come true.

You wouldn't change schools to be close to him.

I have to move to another country to be with him.

You have every part of him memorized.

I study pictures so I don't forget what he looks like

You take your time together for granted.

We don't!!

Your cell phone bill was high this month from talking too much.

He pays 20 cents a min. to call home....when and if he can.

You love that fancy necklace he bought you.

I refuse to take his dog tags off, and not a day goes by that I don't have them on...


Friday, May 9, 2008

"Temporary Single Parent"

One of the most common questions I have been asked during this never-ending deployment is, "How do you DO the single parent thing?" That is often followed up with "I could never do that" or "I don't know how you do it". In the beginning, I didn't think I could do it. Sometimes I still don't.  But it gets done. We're heading into month 15 and the kids are alive and I'm not in jail.

So, how do you do it? I can't give you fool-proof ideas but I can share with you what worked for us.

A lot of this depends on how old your kids are, where you're stationed/living during the deployment, etc. My kids are 6 and 3 and we live in Hawaii. The first thing I did was to start talking to them about the deployment a few months out. I explained to them that Daddy was going to have to go to Iraq (we looked Iraq up on a map and checked out age-appropriate books on Iraq from the library to help them understand WHERE he was going) for "several months". They were young enough at that point to not really have a firm concept of time and saying "a year" seemed overwhelming - to them and to me.

Once we got past that initial shock, I enlisted the kids in helping me come up with an "adventure list". We combed through the tourist books and came up with adventures - big and small - to keep us occupied throughout the year. The smaller ones - beach trips and park outings - we planned for the weekends when his absence would be felt the most. The bigger ones - water park trips, hops to other islands, museum visits, botanical garden adventures, and special events in town - we saved for school breaks and holidays. They gave us things to look forward to and helped to break up the monotony. Basically we became tourists in our own neighborhood.

As a parent, I came to rely heavily on routine. I function better - and so do my kids - if they know what to expect. We almost crave it. Bedtimes are set. Rules are set (the big ones). Activities are set (within reason). It helped us to feel as though we were in control of a situation that was so much bigger than us.

With regard to rules, I discovered an "If/Then Chart" that I now use that covers the 10 most basic infractions and the consequences of those infractions. It's predictable. The kids were able to see the logic behind the consequences and that helped them to feel as though they were a part of the decision-making process of the house. And it took the pressure off of ME to be the sole disciplinarian in the house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In fact, once got the chart (you can Google "If/Then Chart") we wrote to my husband and asked him if he had any suggestions on consequences for the different infractions. He appreciated being included and it helped to remind the kids that, even though Daddy is gone, he is STILL a part of this family and its' functions.

We also made sure to have FUN. Once or twice a month, we do "Movie Night". We haul out the pillows and blankets, pop up some popcorn, bust out the M&Ms, and pop in a movie (thank goodness for Netflix!). The kids love cuddling, eating junk food, and watching a movie they've not seen before (their favorite so far is "Sound of Music"). I love the fact that I get to spend some quality time with my kids and forget about the fact that I'm the only adult in the house. We do breakfast for dinner at least once a month (more if I'm not up to cooking!). We go out for ice cream a heckuva lot more than we do when Daddy's home. We do what we can to make the best out of the fact that it's just the 3 of us for now. And we take LOTS of pictures to send to Daddy.

As a parent, I would encourage anyone dealing with a deployment to find a reliable child-care option. Whether it's the neighbor, a teenager from a family in town or at church, a local day care center, or the Child Development Center on post...USE IT. I'm not advocating pawning your child off on anyone and everyone all the time but I know so many women who feel guilt over the thought of day care or a babysitter. Time for yourself - time to run errands on your own or grab a bite to eat on your own or hit the gym, read a book, or even clean the house ON YOUR OWN - is vital to maintaining sanity. I have found that my relationship with my children is better when I have time for myself. There is less pressure. Less stress. I feel more focused. They seem to listen better and work better with me. And they enjoy it. I wouldn't take them somewhere they didn't enjoy being and my kids (being the opinionated and mouthy things that they are) will tell me if they don't like something. It gives all of us a few moments to recharge. Which gives ME the ability to focus properly on THEM when I am with them. I am a better parent when we all have a little time apart. The saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt" can be seen in action in my house when my husband is gone for extended periods of time. I have a feeling it is this way for many families.

Life as a "kind of" single parent is a balance. It's a balance between you and the kids. It's a balance between sanity and insanity. It's like walking a tightrope above an alligator-infested pit carrying a flaming bucket of snakes. Well, it can be for me on certain days. Take it day by day and do your best to have some fun. My goal during this deployment was to be able to look back on this year and smile. Smile because we made it but also because my kids and I had some fun together and strengthened our bond. I'd say we've done well. I hope this helps a bit.

"A Military Wives Uniform"

Every morning we get up
and have to put on a uniform,
just like you do.

First,we wipe the tears off of our face,
we can't let the children see them,
because we are suppose to be strong and fearless. 

Then, we ship off the package to you, 
with the comfort food that you, 
and all your friends wait for every month,
chips, snack cakes, and cookies, 
we have to send enough for everyone. 

As we rush out the door to another full day,
we wish we could keep you off our minds,
for even an hour. 

We run to our friend's side, when she finds out it will be
another two months before her husband, finally gets to see
the new little additionto the family.

As we walk back in the door, at the end of the day,
when the clothes come off, and before the pajamas go on,
all we see is a real woman, a scared woman.

We know that when we go to lie in bed, 
no matter how exhausted we are, 
there will be at least a couple of minutes
that we notice,there is no one beside us. 
No one to turn to. 

We know that, tomorrow, when we wake up, 
we will have to put on our uniform, 
because we know that that uniform,
is the only thing, that keeps us from falling apart.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008



I don't think this is fair. Nor is this easy. 



Off to go be mommy...