I have been putting off writing this post ... mainly because I know that not everyone will agree with me. Don't get me wrong - I don't expect everyone to agree with what I say - but to word this in a way that can be really understood will be difficult. When I write, while everything I write is very much my opinion and the experiences of my family, I like to hope that many of my emotions and feelings are universal among military families. This hope is why I write, it is what gives me comfort, it is what pushes me to continue. But what I will write about today is a divided issue. It is also an issue that I find some wives get fired up about (including myself) no matter which side they are on. Both sides have valid points and I do not intend to demean those who do not agree with me or to make light of the intense hardships Army Wives undergo while our husbands are away. But today I took our first son to meet his first preschool teacher in his first school ever and his daddy did not get to be there.
I knew that tomorrow would be more difficult - I would have to leave him then. It would be a monumental moment of becoming one step closer to him being a big boy. Today we were just going to meet his teacher, let him get comfortable in the classroom, let him meet the other kids he would see everyday. I checked to be sure his name was on all of the supplies, quickly remembered to copy his shot records, and made sure his face didn't have any syrup left on it from his waffle this morning.
I, unlike most parents, do not have a child who cries when I leave. As soon as he sees the other kids and toys, he waves and yells "BYE!" like I can't get away quick enough. He is fiercely independent and has been, basically, since the day he was born. After 23 hours of induced labor, my son decided to make his appearance in a horrifying, dramatic way (which I briefly spoke about a little while back). He has never been afraid of people - a blessing and a curse. So, for me, today the only fear I had was trying to pry him away when it was time to leave. Let's just say, it was not a fun experience.
"NO!!" He shouted as I said it was time to go back home. My mind quietly began to panic.
"Please, don't let it happen! Please, God, if you want me to remain a sane mother, PLEASE don't let this happen!" I prayed fiercely, and repeatedly, in my head.
It seemed like we might be okay. He took my hand and we were heading out. I couldn't believe it! "There is a God!" I joked to myself (again in my head - I hope).
Well, this God has a sense of humor, and just to let me know how funny he is, he placed it right in front of our path. There it was - my mortal enemy. The one thing that would stop him from acting like a tamed toddler. I had never seen one so big - with working buttons and a "real" laser. I could hear laughter coming from somewhere up in the sky. "Seriously? Seriously?!" I thought.
"BUZZ!!" Logan shouted. The battle began to get him out of there. It was embarrassing. It was mortifying. It almost didn't happen. But it did and by the time we got out, I could feel my blood pressure rising and the sweat beginning to seep from my pores as I dragged my toddler kicking and screaming into the deep south's humid, hot air all the way to our car around the block.
And for just a second I thought it. As I replayed the other faces in the room, mostly replaying the faces of the many fathers who were there with their wives, I thought it. Just for that split second, when I couldn't take the thought back. "He is SO lucky he isn't here."
There is a bumper sticker that seems to be pretty popular among Army Wives. I would bet, while I do not know, that the other branches have one similar that tattoos the many SUV's and soccer mom vehicles that patrol the bases and posts. I do not have one. I do not want one.
"Army Wife - toughest job in the Army"
A dainty script pens the words and a red rose curls around them. The image and the font itself makes me chuckle every time I see it. But I do not agree with it.
Today was tough. Yes, my husband could have lifted Logan up over one shoulder and gotten him out of there much faster than myself with a stuffed, heavy purse and a stack of papers and that stupid fundraiser book. And he would have loved to have been able to do it.
Yes, I have to juggle being both parents while still, very much, trying to keep "daddy" present and active in their lives. Is this difficult? Incredibly. Having two children 22 months apart is hard enough by itself. But to do it without daddy while trying to keep daddy a part of it is difficult and exhausting. It is trying, it is tiring, it is overwhelmingly stressful. We have to deal with the hardships of raising children while our spouses - for a time - do not have to. We have to deal with the meltdowns and the hair-pulling-out moments while our spouses - for a time - do not have to. But we also get the hugs, and actually hearing "I love you's" while our spouses - for a time - do not get to. We proudly get to watch them as they grow and as they laugh and as they learn, gradually, while our spouses - for too much time - do not get to. They do not get to stroke their child's hair as he/she sleeps or wipe tears or kiss bo-bo's. And it isn't just that they miss it. They carry the knowledge that they are missing these moments with them everyday. I would never be tough enough for that.
We have to deal with the absolutely ignorant things that people say about the military, about the wars, about what is going on. We get to respond. They have to hear these things and defend the people who say them while saying nothing. There is no way I am tough enough for that.
He knows, everyday, that there is so much that he is missing. He carries the guilt of not being here for his children, for his wife. Knowing that the vow that he made to his country conflicts with the vows that he made to me. I would not be tough enough to carry that. Everyday, he carries the reality that while each day our toddler runs into my legs to hug me, he may be scared of him when he comes back home. I would not be tough enough for that. Everyday he struggles with the reality that our infant smiles when he sees my face, and reaches out for my arms wanting me to hold him and love him but that when he comes home, Eli will probably not walk to him. That this child will cling to my leg as his oldest son use to cling to his. He knows this, he carries this, he lives this, all while continuing his mission at hand. I am not tough enough.
Soldiers have seen horrible things - a way of life that to most, would be impossible to handle - and they keep going. They keep doing what they have promised to do. They lose friends in war and back at home and continue on. They miss the funerals of family members who pass on while they are away. They miss the time to mourn because they simply do not have it. They miss first days of school. They miss births. They miss first years. They miss graduations. They miss bringing their children to college. They miss first dances, first dates, "meeting the parents" talks. They miss father's days. They miss little kisses. They miss little smiles. They miss days. They miss months. They miss years.
It is hard to go through this "alone." And hard doesn't explain it correctly. It truly may take superpowers. There is something that must exist within us that must not exist in those who do not do what we do. Yes, it is a "tough"ness. But what I do here, I will not believe, is tough"er" than what my husband does there. What I have to handle everyday is not nearly as heavy as what he carries with him on every mission, in every e-mail, with every wink of sleep, in every moment he is alone. He is alone.
I am not tougher than him. What the Army asks me to do is not the "toughest" job. I support him. I try my best to keep him focused. I do my best to keep him here while he is there. It is not a job. It is not my "job" to be his wife. It is my commitment. It is my honor. It is my joy.
It is his job.
He is a soldier.
Toughest job in the Army.
ONLY job in the Army.
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.