18 October 2010

Deployment Diatribes Installment #1

After today, you can find the Deployment Diatribes at: www.DeploymentDiatribes.wordpress.com

Horatio is leaving home for an unknown period of time, at least 18 months.  We've told the boys this would happen.  They've known ever since we departed Beijing 15 months ago. 

Now, though, we have a departure date and reality has begun to set in.  My way of handling this with the boys is to make sure they are kept "in the know" but also that we don't dwell on it.  We tell them things as we learn them but then drop the subject unless they have questions.

About two weeks ago we learned that Horatio would be departing soon, so we shared this information in a matter of fact way.  I dropped it into our afternoon banter after the boys returned from school.

"Do you want a snack?"

"How about popcorn?"

"OK.  Oh, by the way, today we found out that Daddy will be leaving on deployment on (x date).  I just wanted to let you know."

"Oh.  OK.  Why does he have to go?  I don't want him to go."

"Well, it is a part of his job.  He does not want to leave us, but the Navy has asked him to do this very important job, so he has to.  But as soon as he can, he's going to come home."


And, life went on...  Snack, Homework, Dinner, Bike riding, Basketball, Bedtime.

All was quiet on the subject for a week or so and then Horatio brought up an idea to the boys.  We were going through the bedtime routine, the three older boys were tucked into their bunk beds.  I was reading Harry Potter to the 6 year old and the Horatio walked in to say good night.

He told the boys he had come up with an idea of a way to make the deployment a more exciting time for the boys.  He said he would let each of them choose a new Lego figure (HUGE Lego fans in our house.)  He will take the four Lego figures with him and every time he goes somewhere new and exciting, he will take a picture of the Lego guys on location.  Then he will email the photos home and the boys can share the experience with him.

Great idea!


The next morning, the 9 year old was crying when he woke up and came downstairs.  He said, "Why does Dad have to leave?  I don't want him to go."

Not a great start to a day.  It took me a while to realize what had prompted the sadness.  I'd forgotten that the last thing he heard before he went to bed was a foretelling of his Dad's long absence.  I tend to block out the sadness and focus on the logistics of being a single parent.  It  might not be the healthiest way to deal with it but it works for me.  It may be cliche, but I have to be strong for the kids, and in reality, strong for Horatio, too.  It would not be good if everyone in the house dissolved into tears whenever the subject of Horatio's departure came up.

So, I arm myself with all the minute details.  I deal with the boys' tears, grumpiness and confusion as it comes and try to be a supportive wife in the weeks leading up to the departure.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no martyr.  I have my moments of feeling sorry for myself but I try to keep them to a minimum.  We have a good support network set up here and I know it helps Horatio to know he's leaving us in good hands.  We will both deal with the home-front fallout of the deployment as it comes and look forward to the happy reunion down the road.

02 October 2010

it's not fair

One of my children thinks a lot of things are not fair.  I often have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, "life's not fair!"

He does not like to have limitations put on him.  He wants a lot of freedom.  Lately the complaining centers on the afternoon and evening routines.  We have always had pretty early "in bed" times.  The three older boys share a room, so we like them to all get in bed at the same time.  With ages 12, 9 1/2 and 6, the lights out times vary quite a bit, they end up with a lot of reading time, which they enjoy, but the 9 year old frets over the fact that he has to get in bed earlier than his friends.  When the weather is nice, time permitting, the boys can go outside after dinner and get into bed a bit later, but there are lots of times when we start the bedtime routine not long after dinner.

We endure a lot of whining over these nights especially.  We've tried predictable consequences, but the debate continues.  So, I decided to ask him what he envisions as the ideal afternoon and evening routine.

Our standard routine goes like this:

Boys get home from school between 3:15 and 3:30.  They have a snack and play and begin homework at about 4:00.  Homework is done with little input from me.  I highly encourage the boys to do their work independently.  I help when asked but each boy has his personal working space and Harold is encouraged to play quietly or watch a dvd at this time.  I usually fold laundry or work on dinner during homework time.

They finish their homework, tidy up a little, and then play until dinner is ready.  We usually eat dinner around 5:30 or 6:00.  After dinner, if everything has gone smoothly during the day, the boys can go outside to play or have dessert outside.  We have them come inside to get ready for bed at 7ish on school nights, later on the weekends.  Lights out is 8:00 for the 6 year old, 9:00 for the 9 year old and around 9:30 for the 12 year old.

We are flexible, though.  If someone is having trouble falling asleep, they are free to keep reading until they feel sleepy.

Mr. It's Not Fair proposed this routine:
Come home from school, play until dinner.  Do homework after dinner, then go outside until 8:00.  Shower, get ready for bed, lights out at 9:00.

I am pretty confident that he will see that this is not a feasible routine.  If he waits to do homework until after dinner, I might be too busy cleaning up and getting my youngest son into bed to give help if he needs it.  Also, it is not likely he will have time to go outside after his homework is finished, especially since the sun is setting earlier these days.

I think the freedom to try his own routine will give my son some piece of mind.  I see compromise in our future.