This post is prompted by Mama Kat’s response to her own writing prompts this week (Hour to Kill). I posted a response to her rather humorous story about what I have called DH for in the past and why. I also touch on this a little in my post “It’s My Turn“. I thought I’d expand on my response and give a little more insight on how I “deal.”
I also posted a series on “Opposites Attract” and my stable childhood was something of an attraction to DH while his exotic childhood locales attracted me. Both these situations made me decide from the get-go how we would work as a couple and as parents.
My mother was not quite June Cleaver but the house was spotless, chores were done like clockwork, and the children were to be quiet when Father came home from a hard day’s work. My father was, and still is, a workaholic.
My MIL was an officer’s wife in a day and age where communication with the ships, and even less with submarines, was very limited. It is my understanding that when not deployed my FIL made every effort to be involved in the family life and activities. But you just didn’t “upset the men” when they were gone and you did make an effort to have everything perfect when they came back home–at least for a few days.
Neither of these was an option for me. I told DH from the beginning it would be no-holds-barred. He would get the good, the bad, and the ugly. I wouldn’t even try to pretend to be above missing him terribly. I wanted to know without a doubt that I would always be the priority in his life, and that meant sharing in the bad and being my partner.
I’ve also posted about my bad luck with cars “Random Fact # 12″. My very first car accident happened just three days after he left. I totaled his “baby” and I was at fault (and yes, I have learned not to just hop out of the car and admit this). This was at a time when cellphones were the size of bricks, weighed almost as much, and the battery got too hot if you talked too long. Plus, cell reception was not the greatest so we’d have to wait until he was in port to talk. I did have the ship emergency numbers but I had been cautioned by my father not to call, and it was even suggested not to say anything as no one was hurt and I had a car to borrow for the interim.
There was no way I was keeping it from him. DH was great. After asking if I was alright, he asked me what kind of car I wanted to replace it with. He has never let me forget, however, how much he loved that car. I admit, I miss that old Sable too.
I knew things would be hard when we had children. Early on I let DH know that I was “not going to parent alone.” I saw no point in uttering the phrase “wait till your Father gets home” when that could be months away. To be honest, even though my in-laws come from a different time and circumstances, my MIL did not discourage me from this attitude, did not try to tell me I was being a bad sailor’s wife.
I think it had a lot to do with my FIL trying to be as involved as possible and that he had already retired from 30 years. They were in that critical time when a great deal of military families dissolve because of those resentments I talked about, because of lack of communication, because the wife learns to function totally without her husband, and they just grow apart and without the service giving them common ground they realize they have nothing and the children are grown. My in-laws are an amazing example of how to survive that.
One of the very first times I had to pull out the “Parenting Together” card happened when T1 was three years old. We had moved that summer and I knew trying to push potty training was a bad idea. We had time. DH had finally come home and we enjoyed a few months with him. Together we tried to come up with potty training methods that would work.
All the positive reinforcement in the world would not budge T1. In the end we finally did what every book was against–we used negative reinforcement once we found the one thing T1 wanted most in the world. Ballerinas do not wear diapers. I even threatened to give the ballet slippers I had bought to her older friend. As bad as I felt, I was doing the potty dance quite happily shortly there after.
T1 was old enough to understand that Daddy went away on the Big Boat. She would occasionally talk on the phone, but more often than not she would run away screaming. My in-laws were going on a cruise. It’s important to my MIL that “just in case” the children had a final gift and they would have a talk “to let them know how much they are loved.” Well, this talk also mentioned that they too were going on a Big Boat.
A three-year old has no sense of time. And T1 only knew that Daddy went away for a very, very long time. This news did not sit well with her. And she expressed it the only way she knew how. During the course of the day she peed on her bedroom floor, the hallway floor, and the last straw was a BM on the living room carpet.
If I had any sense of justice I would have tracked down my in-laws on their cruise and made them deal with their little darling… but I only knew DH was getting within cell range for the ship’s phone. Crying baby in my arms, crying but sheepish toddler in front of me, I dialed that ship.
They tracked him down. It took every ounce of my being not to scream. Through gritted teeth I said, “I am not parenting alone. Your child is peeing and pooping everywhere. You talk to her.” And I handed my three-year old the phone. I really don’t know what he said to her, but the problem was solved and the crisis was averted. Oh, I did let the in-laws know that if they ever did that to me again…
Once again, let me say that my hat is off to my MIL and all military spouses out there. I don’t know if DH was in a war zone if I would have called him about something so trivial. DH has said that when I share my highs and lows with him, when he can help me on a problem, it takes his mind off his work and the pressure of the job and lets him be connected to us. With a preteen and one fast on her heels, I know parenting together and the crises we’ll face is going to become even more important and challenging. I’m forever thankful I have DH and he’s just a phone call away.