Every military family who has gone through a deployment has learned the last few months of a deployment drag slowly. And, at some point, every family member involved in the deployment find themselves hitting “the wall” and being ready to be done with the deployment.
This deployment, I think Soldier Boy hit “the wall” sooner than the rest of us. It felt to me that he was ready to come home from the deployment almost as soon as he returned back to his area of work from his two week hiatus at home. I don’t blame him one iota – he is missing a lot of Man Cub’s growth. They say that toddlers make numerous developmental leaps and bounds around the two-and-a-half year age range, and Man Cub is no different! So, I can understand Soldier Boy’s difficulty in being gone from the family – he gets to see Man Cub frequently, but watching things through a phone screen is vastly different than experiencing it first hand.
This deployment, I have purposefully avoided any talk about “when” Soldier Boy will come home, so that Man Cub didn’t dwell on the fact his dad was gone, and because honestly, we never know “when” the return will be. Call me jaded, but I always plan for the absolute last possible date Soldier Boy will return, and I take an, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” approach to any news of Soldier Boy’s return from work trips. Instead, we ask God nightly, “please bring Daddy back safely,” but for the most part, we avoid discussions about when Soldier Boy will be coming home, to avoid Man Cub obsessing over his dad not being here. Right before Christmas, Man Cub started asking about “Daddy home?” While ramping up the nightly prayers after the Christmas break as a family, for the most part, Man Cub was doing well not talking about his daddy coming home… until this past week. Almost every day this past week, going on 5 days now, Man Cub at one point in time, randomly in the day, will ask for “Daddy come home?” He has then launched into a whine when he is told that Daddy can’t come home just yet.
One dog decided to throw up in her crate two days ago. And, spent quite some time in her crate before I got home to clean it all up. Tonight, the other dog got tired of being left in her crate when I got home, and decided to poop all over her crate. It was a completely behavioral response – anyone who knows my black dog knows she can be extremely passive aggressive when she doesn’t get her way. She was mad because she heard us puttering around the house, and not letting her out right when we got home. This is not a common occurrence for her, but it is not a complete surprise that she did this, either.
Yesterday, I finally hit my wall. I am done with this deployment. I am ready for Soldier Boy to be home – my best friend, who makes me want to be better and do better, who is my rock. Yesterday was, by far, the toughest day of this entire deployment. There was nothing in particular that made it the roughest day – it was just “one of those days,” and I quickly realized I am “just over it,” in regard to this deployment. That feeling was solidified when I arrived home tonight to a dark room (we don’t have overhead lights in the dogs’ room) with poop in a crate. Although I have had to fight the dog poop tonight, I still think yesterday was the hardest day of the deployment. It’s not as though yesterday coincided with any significant date in our family – it wasn’t an anniversary, or a birthday. It was technically “just another day.” However, it was the day I finally decided, “I’m ready for this to be over.”
So, we are now 5 for 5 in our family. We are all ready to be reunited as a family. That said, this post isn’t about pity – it’s about acknowledging that there is a point in every deployment where each member of the family (even the animals) get to their completion point. Some people hit “the wall” much earlier than my family. Others, like us, can hold out longer. That said, we all get there.
And, the absolutely worst thing to say to me, and to other spouses I have spoken to, is, “oh, but it isn’t much longer now!” As well-meaning as that sentiment is, it only serves to remind me that time is dragging on slower and slower. It also makes me, personally, feel isolated – that I shouldn’t share my struggles because, yes, “it’s not much longer.” But, when I am in the middle of the quagmire of trying to hold things together and “keep it all together,” I feel that statement just reminds me, at this point in my mindset, that I will continue to watch each day count down… so very slowly… on the calendar.
So, what would I appreciate hearing?
That it is okay – that it is okay to feel ready to be finished with this separation. That it is okay to be tired (not physically, per se, but emotionally). That it is okay to be ready for this to end. That it is okay to not have everything all together. That it is okay to have an “off” day.
While I logically know all this, it is nice to be reminded, and to hear it from others – by others who have been in this boat, and by others who can only imagine what it is like to be separated for months, or years, at a time.
Some manage deployments better than others, that is for sure! I would like to think I have managed this one rather well, looking at the past 8 months. So, I know I will continue to, “suck it up and drive on,” because that is what I do. That is what many of us, as military families, do.
If you are going through a deployment alongside me, just know:
It is okay to hit “the wall”. It is okay to be tired. It is okay to be ready for the end of this separation. It is okay to not be 100% together all the time. It is okay to have an “off” day. And, you are wonderful and absolutely amazing!