Separations are a normal experience for military families. Some choose to move “home,” the place they lived prior to joining the service or the place currently with the most family. Those that move home live near or with family while their spouse is gone. Some choose to stay where they are and keep their routine and friends around them as substitute family. This often occurs with families that have school-aged children because it is difficult to change schools every time a spouse deploys.
It hasn’t been an easy transition, though. Actually, it’s been the most difficult transition we’ve had and it has little to do with my wonderful mother. I have nothing but praise for her loving, sacrificial nature and her desire to have us invade her privacy no matter what the cost. She’s given up her space (both personal and physical), her retired free-time, her sit-in-the-chair-like-a-blob-and-do-nothing-but-read time, and much more, too personal to share. We’ve offered to rent a place nearby, but she adamantly refused.
Space, we’ve learned, is a luxury. My mother’s house is hardly 800 square feet, including the garage and the lanai, because both are technically under the roof. This wasn’t a surprise; we knew space would be very limited. Multiple times my husband questioned my sanity prior to the move. But learning to live together in the space allows us the opportunity to practice patience, kindness, and selflessness. Oh, and did I mention that we homeschool? That’s eight more possible hours at home, though we’re rarely here for an entire school day.
I feel like we’re living in an oyster. Everything seems to be an irritant. She uses the wrong dish soap and eats foods with high fructose corn syrup. I want her to purge what she considers practical and I consider excess. I’m a night owl, she is not. The kids leave messes when they shouldn’t, it irritates her (and me) because she knows they’re capable of better choices. All of these irritants could make things unbearable, but they aren’t. We are choosing pearls. We are working with each other to be more patient, forgiving, helpful, and flexible. When this year is over, we will be more Christ-like.
The first week after my husband left was the most difficult. None of us slept well. Issue after issue arose. I share a King-sized, old-fashioned waterbed with my mother. Every move we make rocks the boat - I mean bed. She had the waterbed set to one degree below boiling, (okay, maybe not), and the heat was overwhelming. Part of the problem was that she always slept with the fan on, but due to a degenerative neck condition, I cannot have a fan blowing on me at all. I thought for sure once the Boiling Springs Bed was turned down to a about 85-ish, I’d get some sleep; alas there were more hurdles. Her cat was scared of my dog, my chicken-of-a-dog is still terrified of her cat. All this caused the cat to meow all night long and my dog to lowly growl. Needless to say, my mother and I had gotten very little sleep the first week. I’m happy to report, however, that after two weeks here, the cat finally slept through the night in the same room as the dog without nonstop noise. Fortunately, I think we have all of the issues worked out, at least, until the season changes and we have to adjust to new temperatures.
My kids haven’t had an easy time sleeping either. With a house this small, sounds easily go through walls and every door seems to creak. My son is in an isolated section on the other side of the house and was feeling a bit insecure. All the stress of the move, Daddy leaving for a year, lack of sleep, and most likely some preadolescent hormones culminated to a heartbreaking moment when my son burst into tears and yelled, “I want to go home!” I grabbed him into a bear hug as he continued to repeat himself. I asked him where home was, but he couldn’t answer. I suggested that even returning to our previous town wouldn’t mean that my husband would be there. He didn’t care, he still wanted to go “home.” Once he was calm, I explained all the activities planned and promised a library run (for my two avid readers) that very day. Then, I turned to social media.
I asked my friends to pray for us because we all were all having a difficult transition. God graciously answered and blessed us in several ways. The unplanned library trip had us arrive at the same exact time as another homeschool mom, unsurprisingly to me - God has perfect timing that lead us right where we needed to be. She had two boys almost the same age as the twins and a younger daughter. One of the boys, who was going through his own emo-phase, reluctantly played chess with Michael after his mom coerced him. I continued to talk to my new friend. She was a wealth of information and invited us to an upcoming field trip with her group, which is not in the same town. However, I’m willing to drive if the group works out well for us. She even delayed her library departure time when she saw her own son smiling and laughing with mine while they played chess. The car ride home was filled with excitement and play-date requests. That night my son still had a difficult time falling asleep, but he fell asleep earlier than he had previously. I reminded him that we were going to meet a local homeschool group at a playground in the morning.
Our turning point for the kids came the next day when we attended a homeschool group’s P.E. My kids weren’t thrilled with the P.E. itself because it was “too hot.” However, they made plenty of friends and my son caught his first reptile. They ran around for two hours and finished their schoolwork before they started their new swim team that evening. After a grueling two hour swim practice, both kids crashed easily and slept well. Yesterday, they started A.W.A.N.A (a children’s Bible study club) at our new church. It is by far the best-run club we’ve ever seen. Because of their previous hard work (in their work book), they were eligible to do something special with the club. Each made friends with someone from their group. I believe my children finally realized that although this is very different from having a spacious home, they will have friends here and can have fun. More importantly though, my kids will have a year with their Meema and my sister’s family, a year to make memories that are worth more than 2,000 square feet of living space.
original image credit: Flickr