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Thirteen Reintegrations

I should've written this post a while ago, but I wanted to see if things got better. Like most things in life, they didn't necessarily get better...they just got different.

I wrote in April about how my husband was going TDY for three months and how I wasn't sure how to deal with the fact that he was close enough to potentially come home every weekend. He's now come home three weekends in a row, and each time has been really different. What follows is a narrative of us learning to manage our expectations and figure out how we can do this long-distance family thing.

The first weekend he came home was a disaster. He had been given a take-home calculus test to work on, so he was completely preoccupied with that test hanging over his head. He worked on it each time our daughter took her naps, but he complained that it wasn't enough time. And when she didn't go down easily for one nap, he complained that she was being too loud for him to concentrate. He began to act like he'd made a mistake in coming home, which of course didn't make me feel good. One of the hardest parts about reintegration is knowing by the look on his face that your spouse would rather be deployed again than dealing with whatever annoyance is going on in the home. And that weekend, my husband just wasn't pleasant. He clearly regretted coming home. I started to fear we might have to go through reintegration every single weekend! Thirteen reintegrations!

Instead, my husband said that coming home was too stressful and that he was going to skip coming home the following weekend.

Needless to say, that didn't sit right with me. It's one thing to be too busy to come; it's another thing to decide that your wife and child are too much of a burden or too distracting to come home to. I was really disappointed and hurt. And also mad that, by deciding we were too stressful for him to handle, my husband would leave all the childrearing of a fifteen month old up to me for the next two weeks! I decided that the only way to get through the weekend was to fill it up, so I made plans for myself for Friday night, I made a playdate for our daughter on Saturday, and I accepted a dinner invitation to our neighbor's house on Saturday. If Daddy wasn't going to be around to help out, I needed things to fill the time.

On Wednesday, Daddy decided he missed us too much and wanted to come home over the weekend.

That didn't sit right with me for a whole different set of reasons! I told him when I wrote my TGIF post that I couldn't get jerked around for three months. If he was coming home, he needed to come home, and if he wasn't, I needed to know so I could manage my expectations and find ways to fill the empty time. So I was mad...and I told him he wasn't allowed to come home that weekend. And I meanly told him that maybe he should remember how much he misses his child the next time he contemplated skipping a weekend.

It turned out that the playdate got cancelled, and the dinner got moved later in the evening, and our weekend plans started to fall apart. I talked to my husband on Thursday night and we agreed he should come home. And that weekend turned out to be lovely. He didn't have a take-home test, so he was much more relaxed. We had a nice time. Reintegration #2 = success.

So I was all set to write this post, and time got away from me. All of a sudden we had weekend #3 rolling up. And that one didn't go quite as smoothly because this time I was the one who was crabby. I don't really know why exactly; it was just one of those days where nothing turns out how you imagined it in your head. I saw us waking up side by side and smiling at each other and then going downstairs to make breakfast. Instead, my husband got insomnia and was up at 4 AM. He tried to be nice and start breakfast, but he burned things and made a general mess. Nothing that was really bad, but I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed and all those stupid little things that don't actually matter in the grand scheme of things -- cooking the bacon in the wrong pan, spilling coffee on the counter -- those things just rubbed me the wrong way that weekend. So I was grouchy and cranky for the start of Reintegration #3.

And so goes life.

We try very hard, as most military families do, to live with that Perspective that every day together could be your last. That you need to be grateful for every day you have together because around the corner could be a three month TDY or a twelve month deployment. Or worse. I try to remind myself that tripping over my husband's boots is a blessing, because it means he's home.

I try. I don't always succeed.

I suppose the trick is to just keep trying. To work very hard to communicate, to openly acknowledge our feelings instead of bottling them up, and to do our best to cherish the remaining ten reintegrations on the horizon.

Because after that is a PCS. And no one ever argues during a PCS, right?

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