30 July 2010

Don't Worry, Be Happy

It amazes me sometimes how life works. I've been worrying and blogging about this decision: do we or don't we take the kids to the going-away ceremony? Do we or don't we attend all the hullabaloo that surrounds a deployment? Do we or don't we treat this deployment as a much bigger deal than all of D.'s other trips that he takes with the Army?

And then yesterday D. emails me, angry and complaining about the latest thing that the Army conveniently "forgot" to tell him. He's leaving for the deployment early. He has to be there 2 or 3 days earlier than the other guys do. Which means he won't even be there for the going-away ceremony. Our decision? The one I've been sweating and fretting over? Made.

This happens so often that I'm not sure why I still bother to worry. Not exactly this, of course. Our decisions aren't always made for us. But stuff changes. I'll worry about something for days or weeks, and then the situation shifts, and my worries are no longer valid. So why? Why do I do this to myself?

I've come to realize that I'm a perfectionist, actually. But not in the way of most perfectionists. My beds aren't always (actually, ever) made with hospital corners and all the throw pillows just so. My bathroom only ever stays spotless for about 5 minutes in a row and that's if I clean it after all the kids are in bed. When I wrap a present, it doesn't look like it was professionally wrapped. I'm not that kind of perfectionist. I'm the kind of perfectionist who only freaks out about the big things of life. That whole "don't sweat the small stuff" thing? Got it covered. I am not sweating the small stuff. It's the big stuff that can give me a panic attack.

What if we can't pay for our kids' college educations? What about this new car we're thinking of buying? Are we spending too much? Am I too protective of my kids? Do I do too much for them? When do I let go a little of my teenager's decisions? It keeps me up at night, all this big stuff. It's the stuff that I HAVE to do right. It's the big stuff that I need to get perfect. It's the big stuff that I can't let go.

And yet. I'm a good mom. I'm a good wife. I'm doing the best I can do with the situation I have. I'm going to do the wrong thing sometimes. I'm going to make the wrong decisions. I should probably have three funds for each kid: the college fund, the wedding fund, and the counseling fund, because I will mess up my kids in some way. We all do. But I'm doing the best I can.

I'm going to have a lot of "big stuff" to worry about in the next year while D. is deployed. How to balance work and family. How to be three places at once when E. has a basketball game and J. has gymnastics and A. is supposed to be at Tai Kwon Do. Who to call when the furnace is making that funny noise or there's a really big spider on the bathroom wall. Oh, and then there's the whole "husband off at war" thing. Yep, plenty to worry about.

But the email about D.'s early departure has got me thinking I need to put a stop to the worry. The worry's not helping me, by any means. If anything, it's stressing me out and making me grumpier to all those around me. I'm not sure how great I'll be at this, but I'm going to make a conscious effort to stop sweating the big stuff, too. I'm going to put more effort and more energy into balancing work and family. I'm going to worry less and clean more. I'm going to stop staying up at night worrying and instead attempt a good night's sleep. I'll never have perfectly made beds and throw pillows arranged just so. That's not me. But if I don't let the worry suck all my energy away, who knows what I'll be able to do. Maybe someday my bathroom will stay clean for six minutes in a row!

Hey, a girl can dream.

28 July 2010


While it's true that this is not our first deployment, and we've learned a lot about how it all works, it's also true that we have no idea what we're doing. E. is almost 15 and he remembers the most about the last deployment. He was 9 then, and after it was all over he told me that he never wants to go to another "going away" ceremony. But that was a few years ago, and I'm not sure how he'll feel about it now. And if he felt that way then, should we consider keeping J. and A. at home? I'll go of course, but will it be too much sadness and too much "goodbye" for them to handle?

We're so used to D. being gone these days. Back before his first deployment, D. would go away for a weekend here and a weekend there. But now, he's gone for eight weeks in a four-month period. He's gone for a week here and three weeks a couple of weeks later and, oh, don't forget about the month he'll be gone starting a month after that. We're used to him going away. Of course, yes, this is a bigger deal. He will be gone for a year. And while he'll be in a safer place than he was for his first deployment, he's still going off in support of a war. It's still dangerous, not to mention the fact that life is unpredictable and you don't have to be going off to war to be here one day and gone the next.

Yet, while it's a bigger deal this time, I wonder if we shouldn't treat it kind of like we would treat any of D.'s trips away. Maybe the kids will appreciate a calm and straight-forward approach to this deployment instead of all the sad-song, crying and hugging goodbye, bus-driving-away drama that accompanied his last deployment. Maybe less is more.

Or maybe it's not. Maybe the kids will benefit from seeing the other families who are coping in different ways with the deployment. Maybe they will meet some other Army brats that will help them get through it. Maybe seeing the way it all works and seeing the guys in camo and the American flags and the news crews will instill in them a deeper pride in their dad and in the job that he has chosen to do. Maybe more is more, after all.

I just don't know. All I know is that we have some decisions to make.

25 July 2010

Reality Bites

We officially have fewer than 60 days before deployment, and it is suddenly becoming very real. D. has been away most of this month, training, and it is very much an eye-opening trial run for his upcoming year away. It's reminding me of all the struggles that I deal with while he's gone. It reminds me of the frustrating days when I don't hear from him, and the phone calls that get dropped mid-sentence, and most of all, the utter "alone-ness" that I feel when I have to do it all on my own.

It is typical that several things go wrong soon after he leaves. This month it has been the 5 stitches in J.'s foot, the car that desperately needs new brakes, and the deep freezer that was left open so that everything thawed and needs to be tossed. None of it has been terrible, and all fairly manageable, but they are still things that I had to deal with on my own. My worry is that someday it will be a house fire, or a major illness, or a huge repair.

The truth is that this deployment will be, in many ways, much easier than his last. It will be safer, and shorter, and we've been through it before so we know what to expect. I have more support, a job that will at times distract me, and my kids are older and more self-sufficient. (Not to mention the built-in babysitter!) We're used to this military life. I'm much more familiar with how it all works. So in those ways, this will be easier for us.

But in other ways, this one will be rougher. I'm working now, and finding balance at home and work will be harder. I have a teenaged son that is a great kid, but is still a typical teenager and often makes me want to pull my hair out. Our family is generally busier, with three kids in sports and church and school activities. But most of all, and the one that scares me the most, is that this time, I know.

This time, I know that D. and I will have weeks and months that despite both our efforts, we won't really connect. I know that I will get very used to doing things in my own time and in my own way and without really consulting anyone else. I know that he will forget a little bit what it's like to come home every day to a chaotic house where kids are fighting and dinner is cooking and things need to be done before we go to bed and start all over the next day. I know that after a year apart, he will come home and we will feel like long-lost friends that missed each other, but not really like a couple right away. We will have to get used to each other again. We will have to adjust to sleeping in the same bed. I will have to adjust the way I cook. I will have to remember to consult him again before I make plans or decisions. He will have to adjust to working all day and then coming home to a family that needs his attention. We will have to remember how it works.

There's really no way to prepare. We're spending as much time together as possible. We're talking about decisions that will need to be made. We're trying to get the kids to open up about how they're feeling. We're doing what we can. But really, there's no way to prepare.

I love being an Army wife. I love that my kids' daddy is a hero. I love knowing that we're doing our part for our country. But right now, our reality is a little more "real" than we would like.