This weekend I worked at a craft show. Since I have a three week old baby, he had to work the show too. I didn't think to ask him if he wanted to work. Maybe I should have. Either way, the entire weekend I had about a hundred people ask if they could buy the baby. It's funny how babies are such a crowd stopper. He was a champ but it took lots of juggling to be Suzy Sales AND feed a baby that has some nursing issues. Nursing issues such as a complete and utter lack of a desire to latch, which leads to lower weight gain and general baby drama.
I had to laugh because people kept asking if he was a good baby. As opposed to a bad baby? What makes a "bad" baby? Mason is certainly an easy baby if you get over that whole problem of trying to figure out how to sell shirts and pump milk every two hours. Maybe some people would think that makes him a "bad" baby. He was relatively easy to please and didn't cry too much. In fact, we were able to put him down in a crate of baby clothes for a few minutes and he slept. Well, he slept like a baby. After all the questions, I wished we could just refer to babies as "easy" or "not-so-easy" rather than bad or good. Because with faces like this, how could you ever think he was bad?
If you were very, very lucky you caught the "Coming Home" program on PBS this last week. I had heard from my friend Laura (who'd had a sneak peak) that it was incredibly positive and touching, and she was so right. Check out these snippets here, if you missed it.
Check out these resources designed specifically for parents and kids, whether someone you love is in the military or not. With so many families in our country affected by our involvement overseas, part of being a kind community member means being aware of this pain and also this pride.
And speaking of pride, don't miss these three military moms who are bursting with pride because of the ways their loved ones have committed their all to the conflicts at hand. Whether you're wondering about how to thrive in the store, during bedtime or in the public sphere, these women have something to say that makes a difference.
If you still have unanswered questions about your own experience--either as someone who wants to be supportive of military families or if you are a mom in the military (an often overlooked community of women), please head on over to My Crazy Amazing Military Life and let this exceptional group of mom military bloggers point you in the right direction.
illustration above by jen lemen, dedicated today to all our military families who are coming home and coming back together in new ways. winners of our last two interview giveaways to be announced on monday. stay tuned!
i have a question. we just had our second child in under two years and i am wondering how the heck i'm supposed to find the time and energy to build and maintain an intimate relationship with my husband when the kids demand so much--sometimes all--of us. am i committing a major no-no if i let things slide for a while? or am i committing a major no-no if i try to take on marital issues right now?
There are about 100 pictures like the one above. When Lyra was just minutes old, Jorge
held her in 52 different poses, taking goofy and joyous pictures of himself with his new girl. It's just so amazing, and the love so overwhelming during that time. It's easy to lose the "you and me" in all of the new "us". When the babymoon wears off and you are both so tired and spent is when the real relationship navigation kicks into high gear.
It's difficult to answer your question Kelly because every couple is so different, however I am happy to share my own experience. Every weekend for the last month, Jorge and I have been arguing over the stupidest things. I realized we were royally on each other's nerves and even after four children are still adjusting to our new life with this baby.
For us, we need a little of both options you mentioned. I try to remind myself that space and time are required during this stage of our lives and marriage. Grace is a wonderful gift to give each other. It won't always be this way, the baby won't always be so little and needy. I won't always feel so frazzled. While I'm sure there will be different challenges ahead, they won't be the exact kind before us today. This thought can be comforting during particularly hard moments in our everyday lives.
Yet even while we are willing to honor the stage we are in, we can still choose to be in it together. This might mean that I push myself to ask him to join me (even when I'm tired and I wish he would just jump in without the invitation) in the thick of it because we are partners and friends. It might mean that we require breaks both separately and together. It might mean that I have to trust him to take care of things even if it's not the way I would. It might mean that we choose each other even in the midst of all the need around us.
In the end, these children will grow up and leave us and this person is the one who will be by my side after they are gone. Many a day though, the answers aren't always so clear.
What do you think superparents? How do you find your way back to your partner in the midst of living life with kids?
When Carter was in preschool, he had a good friend named Tommy. Tommy's mom Emily Warner Eskelsen was one of those women who stood out to me on the playground. Her love for her children was fierce; I could feel her gentle determination that her children be happy, secure and strong. It took me a while to realize that for the time that we saw each other every day that Emily was essentially a single mom, her husband on a military assignment for an extended period of time. I remember not knowing exactly what to say when I heard that news and then not knowing what to say again when he finally came home. I asked Emily to share her experience with us as PBS Parents has a special focus this month on helping military kids adjust to family changes when a parent comes home.
How long was your husband away? Where was he sent and how old were your kids when he left?
My husband was away for just over fourteen months. The year before he was away for four months in JAG school, so in a 28-month period he was gone a total of 18 months. He was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. When he left my son was just over 4 and my daughter was 20 months. He got back when my son was 5 and a half and my daughter was turning 3.
How did you explain this absence to your children? What's your advice to other parents who need something clear to say that can really help kids get through?
I explained to my son, many many times, that his dad was a soldier and was helping America. He of course developed his own varied understandings. One was that his dad was in charge of a room filled with hundreds of computers that constantly needed fixing. Another was that there was a jail full of bad guys that kept escaping, and his dad had to run them down and put them back in. I was clear that his dad worked in an office and did no fighting, but at some level my son did not believe that, because his fear of his father's injury or death was unabated.
I did a few things to help my children through this time, and I felt that they were important and effective tools. First, I never talked badly about the military, about our country, or about their father to my children, and I never allowed anyone to do so in their presence. Further, at no time in their presence did I admit to discouragement or depression, and I never let anyone treat us with pity or talk as though we were in desperate or unusually difficult circumstances. I did, however, point out any time anyone gave us respect, and spelled out for my children that people were proud of their father, and proud of them for what they were doing.
What helped you the most during this time? What helped your kids?
There were many people who helped us during this time, but a certain few were clearly inspired and directed to serve a specific role in our lives. There was a family who had us over for dinner and family night every Monday night that Jon was away. More than the food, more than the hour of games and fun, that family gave us the feeling of being part of their family through the continuity of their welcome. We would go sleep deprived, temper tantruming, or in pajamas, and we were treated as part of their casual, tumbling, food-grabbing crew. I still feel emotional about the depth of what that family did for us, when our family was far away.
The other person who comes to mind was a single man of our acquaintance who laboriously took the time to befriend my socially-phobic, hurting son. His patience and interest in a child so many others had given up on resulted in my son having an adult he could talk to, something I would have paid any amount to get for him. I found that many people were willing and able to help me--a dear friend used to come and help me clean my house! Heaven!--but what I could not get enough of, what I needed and valued and treasured most, was for people to connect to and be consistently involved with my children. I am overwhelmingly grateful to those people who did that, especially this man who could allow my son to laugh and talk and express himself freely.
What was your biggest challenge when your husband came home? What was the hardest part for your kids?
A few weeks after my husband came home, I sat my children down, just the three of us. "I know we're really happy that Daddy is home," I began cautiously, "but sometimes we have other feelings about that too that we can talk about." I then brought up confusion, resentment, unfamiliarity, and other emotions I felt sure that my children should be feeling. They stared at me blankly. I tried again. "Tommy, do you have any feelings about Daddy coming home that you want to talk about?" "Yeah, mom," he said impatiently, "It's great. I like having him home." I turned to Ilse. "Darling, what about you? How do you feel about Daddy being home?" My wise little three year old was not fooled. "Mom," she replied, "how do YOU feel about Daddy coming home?" They both stared at me reproachfully. And they were right--they never had a problem, but I did.
I was sensitive about the distance there was between my husband and his children, about his accidentally heavy-handed discipline, or his ignorance of what their behavior was really communicating. My kids weathered it just fine. My relationship with my husband was a different matter entirely, of course. The military told us to expect one month of recovery for every month he was gone. We felt sure that we would be above average on that. We were wrong. I joked with a friend at the two-month mark that I was no longer actively seeking a way to send him back, but I'd still be open to it. At a full year back I was still wondering if we were going to get through this, and at sixteen months home I decided that yes, we might actually be able to stay married after all.
Luckily my husband is humble, communicative, and patient, so he was able to survive my frustration with his refusal to understand how our family worked now, how the house should be run, how to care for our children, and what I was thinking. Within the first few months he relearned an obscenity-free lingo and the empathetic model of family communication, but I am very sorry to report that although he has now been home two full years, he still folds t-shirts wrong.
What advice would you give to friends who want to be supportive of military families during a deployment? Any tried and true tips on how to be truly helpful?
We humans have a terrible habit of deciding how we would feel or react in a certain situation, and then demand that of others who are actually living that reality. I'm afraid that I disappointed many people in the way I coped with this deployment, and some of them turned away from me in confusion. Yes, it was true that sometimes I was quite desperate, nearly depressed, or hysterical, but I could not do that on demand and I could not open up to just anyone at any time "how bad it must be"! When I was succeeding at fighting my demons some people would feel so alienated from me, guessing (incorrectly) that they could never do this thing, and I must be so different from them. The very first helpful thing that anyone did for me was to not assume they knew how I felt or how I was doing, and to not treat me with pity. Pity always includes condescension, and that is never helpful.
Second, I would say that a small gesture done consistently was worth far more than random acts of kindness. One of my friends had lunch with me once a month. One agreed to host us for a playdate once a month. We needed a schedule, and we needed consistency. We didn't need to go to dinner one time at the home of people we barely knew where we would have to overcome our own shyness and perform socially for virtual strangers. That's who we were; others in our situation might feel differently. Unfortunately, I lacked the courage to tell these well-meaning people what a nightmare it would be for me to drag my poor kids to their house for the evening, so I made us all suffer in the name of shared kindness. The lesson for others who are well-meaning: make the effort to find out what would actually help; don't assume.
Third, I mentioned before that the best way for anyone to help me was to help my children. I could not be okay when they weren't; it had to start with them. Similarly, I needed my husband to be okay as well, and I deeply appreciated those friends who managed to keep track of a complicated military address and remember a guy who used to work with them, or go to church with them, and drop him a line here and there.
Thank you, Emily. Leave a comment today in support of our military families and PBS Parents is giving away green PBS Parents photo envelopes and two PBS Parents bookmarks.