As I type this, my husband is prepping to return to Afghanistan after nearly two weeks here at home. It’s been a lovely time together but not without a few challenges, which I will share with you.
First of all, I never knew 14 days could pass by so quickly. I think it must have defied the laws of the time-space continuum or physics or some other science-related subject. Honestly, it feels like we picked Rob up at the Killeen Airport about two days ago.
Second, if your soldier is coming home for R&R anytime soon, I would recommend not making too many plans, but paradoxically, I wouldn’t advise making no plans either.
We initially had no plans made until I spoke with my neighbor and she encouraged us to go somewhere overnight and she would watch our dog. So we made reservations at the kid-friendly (and very pricey) Great Wolf Lodge in Dallas. They are famous for their huge indoor water park which did not disappoint — the boys loved the big wave pool that mimicked the ocean while Rob and I had a blast going down the water slides in a raft.
But this brings me to my third point: expect the unexpected. As we were checking out the following morning, it was snowing and people were nervously checking their phones for traffic and weather conditions. We knew things weren’t optimal but didn’t realize how bad until we actually got on the highway, which had suddenly become an incredibly large parking lot. Cars were barely moving as road conditions were icy, accidents were occurring left and right and many people were driving too fast for conditions.
After four frustrating hours in the car struggling to make progress south, and a few choice words not fit for print, we finally gave up and checked into another hotel. This wintry weather turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we got to spend more time together, enjoyed another round of swimming at the indoor pool and basically surrendered to Mother Nature.
Something else I observed over the past two weeks: When you choose to stay home, “real” life tends to sneak in and suck up a lot of time and energy. For example, I had a doctor’s appointment, Rob’s car needed to be picked up from the shop and the boys had their usual round of homework and other activities. Although being home has its perks and comforts, it may not provide as much of an escape as you might be hoping for.
Factoring in how tired you and your soldier might be for a few days is also worth mentioning. When Rob first got here, he was understandably wiped out after four days of travel. I expected that. What surprised me was how exhausted I was. It was as if I had been holding my breath for the past six months and finally let it out. I crashed hard for several days and felt groggy even when I was awake. Thankfully, that passed eventually.
Being home with the kids and a rather needy dog means finding privacy is tough — we had to get creative with this one. I would recommend slipping away on a one or two-day mini vacation, if you have that luxury, or arranging for the kids to stay with kind-hearted friends or relatives while Mom and Dad get reacquainted.
Finally, when one parent has been solely in charge for half a year, it is difficult for the returning parent to step into his or her old role immediately and start disciplining the children or giving orders. Nor is it necessarily appropriate for that to happen.
But if the expectations are that he or she WILL do that, friction can occur. Communicating clearly with one another (preferably before R&R begins) is the best way to clarify roles and avoid hurt feelings or misunderstandings.
Besides all the obvious good things about having your loved one home halfway through a deployment, I also really appreciated someone else in the house making improvements without being nagged or threatened. Just seeing that the wet laundry was moved to the dryer or the dog got fed made me ridiculously happy.
Hopefully Rob will return to Afghanistan feeling rested and rejuvenated, and I will resume my own home front deployment with a better attitude. Saying goodbye all over again tomorrow will not be easy but I wouldn’t have traded this crazy, imperfect time together for anything.