Why Does It Feel So Different?

elementary school students ready to start school
(Lena Stange/DVIDS)

My girls started school yesterday. Not just a new school year, but they began their school year at an entirely new school. The first-grader showed only a moment's hesitation with the entire process. The fifth-grader, however, had more speed bumps.

I kept thinking, "This is so much harder with my husband deployed! If only he were here, this would be so different!"

I realized as I walked from the school building after delivering each child safely to her respective classroom, that I have taken that walk alone, every year whether my husband was deployed or not.

My husband's civilian job is one that starts at the same time every day, give or take, and ends when the truck is empty. There is no “reporting late” or taking the day off for something like the first day of school (unless, of course, you knew the date in February and scheduled your vacation week around school starting). He may be in the zip code and yet miss lots of things -- soccer games, dance recitals, daytime school performances, parent-teacher conferences. And, he's come to more than one Christmas program all in brown, covered in diesel dust and bleary-eyed from the craziness that is holiday delivery season.

I tried to sort things out in my mind -- why did this year feel so different if I'm normally on my own for this anyhow?

I realized it wasn't so much the actual school drop-off that was different. It, like so many other things, was affected by the other moments leading up to and following the drop-off.

No Daddy following you around to be sure your backpack is fully loaded.

No Daddy to help Mommy lug the 93 pounds of school and classroom supplies to the car.

No Daddy to take a picture of Mommy with the girls.

No Daddy to tuck shirts into uniform skorts.

No Daddy to promise a special dinner made personally by him.

No Daddy to cover the textbooks.

I realized that I packed the backpacks, schlepped the supplies to the car, took photos of the kids (and then immediately sent them via e-mail to Daddy), wrestled the kids into their uniforms and made a special dinner once the day was done. I even covered the textbooks in the required paper-only format and did a quite admirable job.

It's amazing to me that even though I know that everything is different, even if it looks the same as it ever was, I still have to take the time to noodle it out time and again. I mean, really, I still go to bed to sleep every night but it certainly isn't the same as when my husband is there snoring beside me.

Daddy missed the oldest's very first day of school because he was overseas. This year, he missed her very first year at a new school. Luckily, I'm pretty sure I can count on him to help me take her to college in a few years. Did I just actually type that my baby girl will be going to college in "a few years?”

I need a hug.

What kinds of things are "the same" with your spouse deployed and yet, they are so truly different?

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