Sunday, July 18, 2010
Quarrels, Quinte cups, Conversation killers (and Queries)
It's been a month and a half that I've been parenting on my own, thanks to the Canadian Armed Forces. The kids and I have gotten into a routine. We've pulled one of the chairs away from the table, so it doesn't seem so empty without dad (pictured, left) there. I work my shortened work week, I taxi the kids to their activities, and I try (unsuccessfully) to keep the house from looking like a complete pig stye. I feed them at least one vegetable a day. We eat out more than once a week. Pretty normal, actually.
According to my handy-dandy Family Deployment Handbook (FDH), I'm right on schedule. I'm in the 'Recovery and Stabilization Phase'. Meaning...I'm not sick? And I'm not so unstable? That the old boat ain't so tipsy? True, the almost-in-labour anxiety has calmed down, and I spend less time sitting in the middle of the bathroom floor sobbing. But I still hate it. Just because I'm not running down our country road screaming obscenities and pulling my hair out doesn't mean I don't think about it.
The FDH states that by week 6 I should be experiencing "Feelings of increased confidence, independence, competence, freedom, pride, isolation, anxiety and depression". How can you be confident and still be depressed? How can you feel competent and independent, yet have anxiety? Living in deployment-land is full of nasty contradictions. I'm moodier than a PMSing teen deprived of sleep and coffee. One thing's for sure...if Momma's grumpy, everyone's grumpy. I try to be patient. But patience has never been my forte. So the kids are less patient with each other...and then the fights start. I have adopted the 'Mom's having a time out' technique. Rather than blow up at them for blowing up at each other, I lock myself in my bedroom and count to 1000 (10 just doesn't cut it). It works...more or less. The kids go 'Huh?' and stop quarrelling. And I get a precious moment or two by myself.
It bugs me that the little FDH book is so accurate, though. I hate to be pegged. But it's right. Independent? My husband (and parents, and siblings...)will tell you that he didn't have to go away for me to be independent. And now that he's gone, independence has hit full force. Whatever you do, DON'T suggest I can't do something. I'm like a kid with a dare. Two weekends ago the girls were at their first away horse show (One of the Quinte Cup Series)of the season. Two ponies, two girls, my son, saddles, bridles, helmets, show outfits, water, a sun shelter, chairs, food, diabetic supplies (for my youngest) and coffee, all had to be packed into boxes, trucks and trailers for a day long show in the heat. We got up at 4 a.m. to leave. And it went...okay. We got there, the girls showed, and we came home. I did it, with help from others, of course, but I did it. So there, ha ha. Independent me.
And as to coversation killers... I read a post on Facebook this week that just about hit the nose on the head. I can't find it now (of course) and can't find the author, so forgive me if you wrote it. (And let me know if you did so I can give you credit) but it was along the lines of "14 things to NOT say to a spouse of a deployed soldier". I have great friends, and they generally know how it is with me. But I'd like to paraphrase a few of the points:
1. "I know how you feel." You don't. Heck, I don't even know how I feel most of the time. If your husband has NOT gone away for 6 months and flown in and out of Afghanistan at least once during that time, you don't know how I feel. If you haven't sat beside your diabetic daughter at 3 in the morning praying her sugars come down, you don't know how I feel. Just like I don't know how you're getting through whatever challenge you have in your life right now. My FDH tells me I feel isolated. Darn right. I'm alone in my experiences. I don't generally want to talk about it with anyone, because it kills the conversation dead.
2. "It could be worse, he could be in..." Gee, thanks. Make me feel even worse than I already feel. Sure, he could be somewhere worse. I'm sure there are a million things that could make my current situation even more stressful. Do I want to think about them right now? NO.
3. "Well at least the kids are older (not babies)" Have you ever had a pre-pubescent daughter? Not fun. Tears at least twice a day. And my kids are old enough to understand where their dad is. They get it. It's on the news every day. Someone killed, someone bombed, funding cuts...I try to turn off the news, and thankfully hubby is not in Afghanistan all of the time, but they hear it. And they think about it. Babies don't.
I could go on and on, but the negative vibes are making me grumpy, so I'd like to add a change of tone. I want to give you a few things I'd LIKE to hear. Music to the deployed spouse's ear, a balm for my tired soul.
1. "Here's a gift certificate to the spa. I'll stay at your house and watch your kids." I don't have time to look after myself these days, what with summer (ie kids are home), work and taxiing. I'd love to have a moment alone. And if my kids are home, I have less to worry about than if you took them to...Wonderland or anywhere else far away and less safe. I can't relax if I think there's some danger. And with a diabetic daughter, keeping my diabetes-educated kids together, and keeping them at home means easy access to whatever food, medicine, or equipment she needs. If you offer something like this to a military spouse, though...make sure you follow through. There is nothing worse than looking at a gift certificate on the fridge for six months straight. And I can guarantee they won't ask you about it.
2. "Let me pick up the milk, pizza...(insert food item here)" I could really use help with lunch/supper now and then. I love to cook, but hate to decide WHAT to cook. We live 10 minutes away from even a corner store, so dinner = preplanning. The less I have to do, the better.
3. "You look great." "You're doing great." "You're a super mom." "You're husband is so lucky to have you." "Insert compliment here." What I'm doing is hard. My main cheerleader is gone. My kids complain. A little bit of heartfelt flattery goes a long way.
And here's one for just me...
4. "I loved your query...please send me your full manuscript!" Sorry, had to say it. My biggest project for the week ahead is to FINALLY send off a couple of queries to agents in hope that one of them will support my book. A wholelotta anxiety over that one, I can tell you! I've spent over a year editing and coddling it since my last misguided attempts(yup, I did EVERYTHING wrong with those first queries). It's time to let go again, and see what happens. Query number one went out today. Wish me luck.