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October 07, 2012

7 weeks have passed

since Peter went back and to say the time is flying is not an adequate description.  It's already October and with a very few exceptions, our days are almost too busy.  Between school, volunteer commitments, the dog and my exercise schedule (with required recovery time), I'm lucky to find time to sleep.  However, thanks to the creative and strenuous workouts with my new trainer, I'm finding myself going to bed early by virtue of utter exhaustion.  

While I'm not going to say each day is super easy, we seem to be falling into a pattern.  The kids still fight over who takes the recycling to the curb, Lego bricks are still as fascinating as they were two months ago and the dog is adding a certain calm to our household.  The Little Guy is uttering things I swear he shouldn't as a 4 year old, but then again, he is 10 in his mind, so it all works out.

Coincidentally enough, as I was thinking over the past few weeks how things have eased up and the UT (Unaccompanied Tour) is stressful, but not, I received some interesting advice.  I read it, choked on most of it, forwarded to Peter, obtained his opinion and then realized I was not alone in thinking that quite a bit of it was, well, not pertaining to our situation.  Is that a nice way to put it?

Actually, I'm not even sure I want to be nice at this point.  My kids get medals and a free trip to see their father somewhere.  Peter gets awards and pats on the back because he is sacrificing a year for his country and living and working in a danger zone.  I get piles of laundry and dishes that make my head spin.  I spend a fortune on babysitters (whether bribing my own daughter or someone else's), have to keep 4 schedules straight in my head and there darn well just better not be any emergencies, because my main emergency contact is 7,000 miles away.  

Imagine my surprise then, when I read this advice and find tidbits that, if employed by me, would likely find me on Divorce Court.  I'll just tackle a couple of items, in the hopes that others reading the same information are not feeling that one has to follow that information or they are doomed to the worst UT ever.

1.  Apparently, we are supposed to understand that what is happening overseas with our spouse takes precedence over issues here.  We are supposed to understand that their job and needs trump ours and they are dealing with much more important issues.  Not only that, we need to remember that complaining about issues here is a waste of time and will not help with our communication.

Seriously?  Now, if I followed that advice, I would have 400% more work instead of 300%.  Peter may not be here physically, but I'll be damned (yes, you heard me), if he is going to quit being involved in our lives for a year just because he is over there.  He has a phone and knows how to use it.  He has time during our day (when I don't) to follow up on insurance issues, cable problems (he even ordered us a new box from Verizon) and appointments that will happen during his R&R.  Do you know what this does?  It keeps him involved!  

What may *seem* like a petty issue, if not discussed, could grow and fester into something huge.  So, yes, sometimes I complain and rant to him...and in turn, he might do the same.  Just like if he was home, so it feels normal, sane and neither one of us bottles up stuff that we need to just get out in the open.  And, I don't hesitate to let him resolve problems (that he can), since we know I am doing the bulk of the work.

In short, TALK to each other.  Ignoring a problem, no matter how small, will not make it go away.

Now this next item was not in the same exact milieu, but in related information and along the same lines.

2.  Rather than teaching your children how to call your loved one at post, you are to instruct them that the phone number is for "emergencies only" and if they want "to call to complain, they should send an email instead."  I will get Nick RIGHT ON that email business.  While he may be an expert at tweeting Lego You Tube police videos to my Facebook status, he has not quite mastered emails that don't look like this:  "yoiuiud....sdoiufdsoiu iouohklkjl catoiupoi."  So, I have to say, I would file that under useless to downright silly.

Instead, let's look at the reality that many times (not always, but sometimes) kids have to be reminded to call...or they don't feel like talking when you may have said parent on the line.  Other parent (the one at the overseas post) knows that each child is different and may not want to chat when others are listening and/or simply may want to talk when they want to talk (generally how that whole phone thing goes, you know?).  So, rather than assuming the child will abuse the phone privleges, since we are asking them to, oh, give up a year with said parent, assume that they can handle calling and chatting on their own?  And, maybe if dad or mom says it's not a good time, gasp, the parent can call back when it IS a good time.  I mean, kids aren't stupid and they don't always call to complain (shocking, but if you have kids, you are aware of this fact).

We actually have a rule in the house (and Peter, yes, really, Peter came up with this) that the kids can call whenever they need to do so.  Yes, really.  If Nicholas has a nightmare and wakes up at 3 a.m. and suddenly wants to talk to Pete, I call him.  The reality?  The kids Skype maybe twice a month and talk on the phone 3x a week (and that's probably a stretch)?  The hours don't always line up in their favor and when Pete calls, they don't always want to talk.   We don't force it (If you have ever seen a forced Skype conversation, you know it's not pretty) and then they are far more eager to talk when they are ready (and tend to have a lot more to say).  

The reality is that a UT can be a really crappy time.  (And that's not to say we are having a bad time right now, just that given the circumstances, a UT could be a very tough time for a family.)  While it can be hard on the spouse at the overseas post, the spouse at home generally has way more to think (and stress) about.  Let's not make it worse by offering advice that's rooted in some sort of twisted 1950's Mad Men/Stepford Wives scenario.  Give those of us on the Homefront credit where credit is due.  Trust me, we've earned it!



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Bravo, my friend! Bravo!! For us family has to and must come first. The end! Just like you, the kids are allowed to call Chris whenever they feel they need to talk to him. We have always held to that rule no matter if he is a mile or several thousand miles away. And most of the time, they "need" to talk to him more often during an UT but that is to be expected. It is not like he can physically tuck them into bed at night or wrestle them silly when he walks in the door from work. Thank you for writing such a great piece on the realities of surviving an UT! After all, the employee is not the only one making big sacrifices. Great job!

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