Two years ago, my husband and I made the decision for him to do a two year tour away from the family. Instead of uproot the kids and I, we stayed put, right where we are. The schooling was perfect, the medical support was where it needed to be. It has been a long two years. Life has thrown a lot at both of us collectively, to test our limits. But we both trucked through it all and manged to come out ok. So despite the very long two years, he finally came home this week. And like anyone who is returning from being away from their family for a long period of time, adjustment back into our lives, is slow and steady one.
Like many other military families, we too, are faced with the issues that arise from them not being in our lives much for a good amount of time. And for us, it seems that every time my husband deploys, the children have their own medical crisis. To which I am faced to deal with alone. Its one thing to deal with a diagnosis together, but its another thing to face it by yourself and then have the task of relating everything said at the doctor's office to your spouse on either a crappy internet connection or a phone line. And believe me it's no picnic trying to tell your spouse something important concerning their children over a crappy line. But with all that, you still have to manage your life and your children's life and everything that comes with it. Assessments, Doctor Appointments and school meetings. I can honestly say that I have done all of those for each child, by myself. Now I am not saying that my spouse didn't want to be there for any of those, but the circumstance of our lives made it impossible for him to be part of that world. And it is a world that consumes a good portion of your life. But the question is, what happens when they come back?
You get so used to your routine. Your children are used to the routine. And now you have to get your spouse used to the routine. And for a person who hasn't been there for a long period of time, looking at the calender, can be confusing. In a way, you wish you could just do a power point presentation for them to try to bring them up to speed. So when you have children, who have multiple things going on and their own set of Doctors you have to remember, it almost looks like the world's worst calculus problem. And on top of everything else you have on your schedule, you now have to include integrating your spouse back into your lives. It's not an easy task. As they are going to have their own questions and quandaries. And yes there is going to be times, where they will challenge the, WHY, WHAT, WHO, WHERE and the WHEN of things. They may not like a certain doctor, or the way they have managed their child's care. Even though, you have been seeing this doctor for awhile now and see nothing wrong with the level of care or the way the IEP is set up. The one thing that has to be remembered, is that is ok for input or suggestions, but the returning spouse has to remember that this is the life that has been lived. It is the lifestyle that works well with you and your children. It is going to take some time, but eventually they will fall in line. And if they don't then, it is more about them accepting the situation as it is, not you trying to make them accept it.
I made sure that I had conversations with my husband before he came home. I laid it out for him. I didn't sugar coat things. This is how we do things, these are the behaviors and quarks that you will need to get accustomed to and these are all the doctors and therapists we see during a month. Yes it is going to take time for you to get used to it all, but Welcome home, this is your life. One thing I asked of him, is to not tell me how to do the job I have been doing in his absence. As I have sailed this ship, The USS Special Needs for awhile now. I am the CO of this particular ship and he can take the job of XO.
I think the hardest thing about having your spouse come home, especially after there has been a diagnosis given in their absence, is acceptance. While you have had the time to digest the information given to you, it is a whole new world for them. When they left, it was a different life. So not only do they have to deal with coming back to a lifestyle they have missed out on, they also have to deal with the reality of that lifestyle, which includes the special needs aspect. While I was trying my best to inform my spouse all that was going on with his children, I know he felt that being far away from us, made him useless. He had his own range of emotions to sort out when it came to dealing with our son's recent diagnosis. And of us spouses, that live and breathe our child's medical problems, we have to remember that. Our spouses have to go through the same kind of emotions. Anger, Sadness and grieving what once was. They will do it in their own way, but they need to be allowed to have those emotions.
Right now, I am just so happy that he is home. Not for my sake, but for his. Just as I have had time to process everything, and still continue to do so, he is taking the time to understand his own children. Its not going to be an overnight deal. Its going to take time. Even the families who don't have special needs in their lives, need time to integrate back into family life. But he is taking his time. Taking time to observe and learn. And I think that helps him understand why we do things the way we do. I know it isn't easy for him. As it is like walking away from one way of life and into another. And I need to respect that and accept it. No, its not always going to be like that and its going to take a couple of months, but at least there is effort on both parts to make this work.
At the end of the day, they are back home. Whether or not it is for a little bit or for good. And if your spouse wants to have a meaningful relationship with their children, they will help you with the task you both have to ensure these children's future. Again there will be questions along the way, but you have to remember that this is like throwing a polar bear into the desert and expecting it to understand it's environment. It isn't going to end well.
In the end, I wish that integration was as smooth as ice, but in reality its not. There are going to be bumps along the way. And when the time comes and the honeymoon period has run it's course, both of you need to prepare yourselves for the reality that is yours and yours alone. Support each other. Listen to each other. Don't discredit feelings. Let them learn and ask questions. If you want a partner to be there for you during the rough times, you need to be there them as well. But also forgive when mistakes are made and remember that they are also trying to understand and process everything that has been put in front of them.
And in the military brain, it is almost like a change of command. Not taking your responsibilities away so much, but being there when you need the strength and support to propel the ship forward. The watch standard just changed, that is all.