As of today, Tuesday, November 17 - my husband has been deployed (ok, ok, techincal Navy people, he has been 'at sea' or 'on patrol' since we live in Japan and are "forward deployed" which technically means he is *always deployed* or some such nonsense) - anyway, he's been gone for 183 days.
You know, not including sea trials or duty days or any of that other short business. Because a weekend? Girl, please.
You know, not including sea trials or duty days or any of that other short business. Because a weekend? Girl, please.
That means that as of today I have been flying solo for half of 2015.
Now, this is not meant to say woe is me, when I damn well know that so many do this for longer, or maybe they do this for shorter amounts of time but more often and don't get significant stretches with their service member home, and of course this doesn't take into account all the folks single parenting every day of their lives for one reason or another - that's why I use "flying solo" because though I am "solo" parenting I totally recognize that I am not, in any way single parenting.
Ok...getting off track. Forgive me. Rusty.
Six months. Half of a year. Half of 2015.
(And not quite done.)
For some reason, I have always been struck by milestones. And 6 months for me, is a milestone.
I've certainly never parented for 6 months alone before - let alone parented 3 children for 6 months alone before. Heck, I've only been a parent to 3 kids for (barely) 8 months. I've spent 6 months away from my husband - longer, really but I was the one doing the traveling and he was at home - and we could call and text (who am I kidding - instant message. Remember when texts cost money? Ha! #old) every day. And we weren't married yet. So... this is different.
And here's the kicker - we're going to do this all again next year.
That seems crazy and normal and insurmountable and doable all at the same time.
Isn't that just weird? We can agree that is weird, right? That being apart from your life partner and co-parent and best friend for half the year seeming doable and par for the course is just completely bewildering?
I hope so, because even after living, geeze, my whole life as part of this military community, it seems that way to me. Because, why should that seem normal?
I tend to think in letters these days - probably because I am always composing one to my husband inside my head, so here is a letter to Courtney of next year, the Courtney of 2016, staring down the barrel of this whole shebang one more time...
Hey girl -
What's up? We have been through some shizz these last six months, haven't we? (Future Courtney is now nodding in eyebrow raising thoughtful reflection, I am sure.) Take a sip of that wine, you deserve it.
I know you are probably reading this like a week before deployment starts, or maybe a few days after it has started or - who knows - when you are up late one night on a tough night. Maybe our anniversary, or Ev's birthday, or her first day of school, or just some random terrible day where you have no idea how you are going to survive this mess.
The kind of day where the kids have driven you up the wall and nothing is going right, because something was terrible and hard on base because of bureaucracy or you can't for the life of you find some... thing... out in Japan that would require a 10 minute trip to Target back in the states and now you are wondering if the shipping and two week wait time from Amazon is worth it...who knows.
The kind of night where you take to your phone and ignore everything else and start pounding out an angry and self righteous email to your husband - the man that you love - the man that you feel like an absolute martyr for right now because you are so pushed to your limit... and then end up just leave it in the draft folder instead of sending.
Because you know this is hard on him too. And you love him and you are feeling benevolent and better after venting to that nowhere space. You just needed to get those feelings out.
(But - you save it in drafts instead of deleting, because damn, lady - there was some passion and good writing in there, and hey - if he really makes you mad you may want to pull quotes from that one in the future.)
I hear ya. We had those days this go round, too.
Anyways, whatever brought you back to this, my intention was to tell you - you can totally do this.
I know, you are probably side eyeing sweet, naive 2015 Courtney right now, saying, ah yes, but that was before Evelyn was in kindergarten and we had to be out the door EVERY DAY for school at the crack of dawn, and before Patrick was running around and being ONE and doing all those things that one year olds do, and before Liam was a threenager. Oh, our dear, sweet Liam who feels so many emotions all.the.time as a threenager...I don't even want to imagine that right now.
Well, let me remind you, you didn't think you could do a lot this go round either. But with sheer will power, a group of amazing and supportive friends, and lots of coffee and wine, you are doing this.
When deployment started this go round - let me just remind you, your kids, especially Patrick, looked like this:
Just a little squish. Barely two months old.
Now he's a chunky 8 month old sitting next to you, continually lurching for this thing you are typing on, because, let's face it, he has seen an actual computer maybe 3 times in his life, and the only things he really lurches for these days seem to be technology based.
(Kid loves to chew on a remote. But, you know, third baby, so you just take the batteries out and let him have at it.)
You have been known to declare that the baby was the "least of your worries" given his inclination to sit, and stay where you left him for the better part of this adventure. And that's true. And I am sure that you are missing a bit of that right now, when it seems that no one knows how to sit still for more than 10 seconds.
But, I implore you for many reasons - the least of which is your own sanity - do not be one of those moms who forgets just how demanding the new baby phase can be! Their wants are few, it's true, but they are often. You have been breastfeeding more times a day than you care to count. That kid has yet to spend a night in his room, because it just hasn't seemed worth the bother, which also means that you haven't spent a night truly alone yet.
Both comforting and yet completely overwhelming when you look at the stark numbers of alone time you have managed in the last 8 months. Court, I say this with love, but you need to do better about some self care. Seriously. I know you are snorting right now, because, HA. But really, why are you reading this - go take a shower. Right now. I know that dry shampoo is literally saving your life, but it can only go so far...
Still here? Alright then. You do you.
Let's talk about the things you have accomplished.
Lady - you flew with 3 small children, alone, halfway around the world. On that flight back to the states? You made 14 trips to the bathroom on that 13+ hour flight. Only one of those times was for you to pee. And you know what? It wasn't so bad. Granted, having your mom fly back with you was the best gift she has ever given you, bar none, but you did it. And then you trekked those 3 kids all around the United States for 2 months. With cobbled together car and car seat arrangements, shared rooms and no personal space and a bajillion happy memories made and love showered on your kiddos from their grandparents.
You baked your girl a birthday cake, drove across the country with your mother and all your children in a 1994 Caravan - remember how much Patrick liked his car seat? because that answer is NONE, then flew across the country to San Diego for a weekend with the baby to see your husband, spent money like you were setting it on fire and didn't regret a cent. Because HUSBAND and holding hands and sexy grown up times. You know, with a baby in the crib in a corner...but still.
That look on that man's face when he got to hold that baby again? Priceless. I know you'll never forget that look.
And then you came back to Japan, and brought your mom! and showed her some things, and made her eat food she didn't like. And you went on adventures with dear friends and their kids, and your three small children in tow. And you brought the circus an lived to tell the tale.
Because don't forget - you feel so much better about living in this far away from family place when you get out and experience it! Even when the kids have meltdowns and lose their minds for a small portion of it - you are always glad that you did it. Always. If you have a plan on the back burner right now, this is your reminder: RSVP yes.
You have found such an awesome village here - hopefully one or two of them are still around (damn Navy life) - go plan a Wines-day if there is nothing else on the books. Keep the kids up way too late, tell yourself that snack food is an acceptable dinner for growing children and get in some belly laughs with the girls.
Right now you were feeling pretty damn good because for the last three nights in a row, you have cooked a real dinner, that the kids ate (!!), had the dishes done before bedtime and had two kids soundly asleep by 8pm. You currently have a fully stocked refrigerator and pantry and a glass of wine in hand. Rock. Star.
You did not let the fact that the playroom is a mess, there is laundry to be done and the fact that the baby has never ever been on any kind of a sleep schedule dissuade you from the success that you have felt these last few day by letting that shit go and focusing on the positives. The stuff you really feel good about. The stuff the kids care about. The stuff you can write to Daddy about without feeling torn between presenting life too well so that he is miserable and too honestly so that he feels guilty.
Stories and crafts (limited, because STRESSFUL and MESSY, but maybe you've come further on that? No? Ok then, no surprise there) and playing outside and time at the park.
Because you know what? When they are happy, you are happy too. Look for the stuff that's making them happy. Choose that. Let them play for a few more minutes so you can do the dishes before going upstairs. Man, that feels nice when you finally make your way back down. Or you know what? Skip the dishes and have a dance party. Better yet, buy some paper plates.
Don't get me wrong, those sweet small children you are conjuring in your mind and momma heart right now have both cried and whined and hit and told you to "Go Away!" in the last few days, too. We've had time outs and loss of privileges and "I miss Daddy"s and messes made.
But, the hugs are here too. And the "I love you Momma"s, and the crazy from the inside of their head stories and jokes. Remember how Ev and Liam tell jokes that go, "What about...(insert random assortment of words here)?" and then they look at each other and just laugh and laugh.
Take some time to listen to the way these kiddos play together. God, I am so proud of that right now. It just makes my little heart burst a thousand times over to hear them interact. Because even though you know that you cannot be everything for them, you are trying your damnedest and it is reassuring to know that they have each other, too. There's no lack of love in this house, even with such a big piece of our hearts in another place.
And when you miss that guy you call your husband - all the time, I know - but I mean those heart stopping moments where you miss him and physically ache, because that guy is supposed to be sitting there with you, listening to all these moments that only parents really care about and rolling his eyes with you the way that only parents can about their children, let him know.
He wants to know, and you can be honest. You don't have to be the stalwart Navy wife all the time.
Look for the bits and pieces of him in those kiddos. It hurts more and less all at the same time. Tell him what you see of him in them. Tell him about the mundane stuff too. But, if you fall asleep on the couch before finishing that email, do not despair. Give yourself some grace.
Don't lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. Don't lose perspective that this is such a small slice of time in the larger picture of your lives. It's hard when you are in the trenches and everyone is telling you to cherish every moment, but take a step back and look at the big picture.
You love to remind yourself that the kids are developing and acquiring coping mechanisms and resiliency. That you can recognize that takes frustration and cognitive dissonance. Don't forget - you are right there with them.
You can do this. This is hard. But you can do it.
You have already done it.
I have faith in you.
P.S. Do not let that love of your life forget that when he said, "Let's go to Japan!" you were promised a trip to Bali and a tansu chest.
Evelyn Rae is 4, Liam is 2 "and a half!" and Patrick is 8 months old
...and dang, that was almost a novel. Get it together, lady.