I just wanted to give up
Joe was home for one week in-between a stint of underways out to sea. They pulled in an hour away from home and instead of riding the bus home with the rest of the guys, we met him at the pier so we could see him a little sooner. I knew he wouldn't be home long, so I wanted to spend as much time together as possible. That's the nice answer at least. Truth be told, picking him up was a little selfish on my part. The faster he rejoined the family, the faster I could relinquish my duties as a solo parent. Just a few months in to our three year tour and I was mentally done.
As most things go though here in the Navy, our reunion wasn't exactly the beautiful moment I was hoping for. In fact, it was just the opposite.
Our whole family was one raw nerve driving home in that car that day. The best of intentions were ruined by a screaming baby, a mom losing her temper, and a dad who's face read, "I'd rather be anywhere else in the world than in this car". My heart was in my throat the whole drive just praying that the baby would stop screaming for just a second so that we could all have a moment of peace, but I knew better. Caroline hated car rides.
She stopped twice. Two times the entire trip home and each moment of silence lasted about that...a moment.
I took several deeps breaths just soaking in the silence as I tried to find calm within the chaos. My husband, very matter of fact in his words, mentions that in the future we are not to meet his boat at the pier when they pull in.
"It's too much for everyone" he says.
I could feel the emotion welling in my throat, moving towards my eyes, but I just kept breathing. In...and out...as the baby continued to scream. Our attempts to soothe her were met with only more tears. She just wanted to be home. I just wanted to be home.
I had a vision of how the night would go. Stories and pictures of a beautiful reunion that I had in my mind would have to stay there for another day. On that day, his homecoming painted a different picture.
My baby had an ear infection and still wasn't feeling well. I should have never taken her out of the house. We should have carried on with business as usual that day and waited for daddy at home but my heart wanted to be with my husband as soon as possible. With Joe being gone so much, I spent most of my days as just "mom." But that day, I was able to be a wife again and I wanted that feeling to start as quickly as possible.
Forty-five long minutes passed and we made it home. Nerves shot. After putting the kids to bed that night, I sat for a moment at the bottom of the steps before joining my husband in the living room. I was drained. Not only did getting the girls home take every ounce of patience I had in my body, but Joe had said some things that left me feeling even more deflated than I already was. I was embarrassed and I felt unseen, but I was also cognizant of the fact that my husband just had an awful week at work and was in no mood to deal with the kids' emotions let alone mine. I held it together the week prior thinking that he would be home soon to save me... and what I realized as I sat there, was that the fight wasn't over.
His first day back was not the time to ask him for help, as he still needed me to be there for the girls as much as they did on the days when he physically wasn't there.
There are moments in life when we have to expand instead of contact. There are moments when you feel as though you have nothing left to give, and every fiber of your being wants to shut down. The reality though is that some days you just don't have a choice. You have to expand. You have to grow. You have to put the mom hat back on even when you feel like throwing in the towel.
I don't think I executed parenting perfectly that day, but I was very aware of my emotions and I was very aware of my thoughts. I recognized sadness and disappointment. I recognized hurt and frustration, but I was able to stay in control. I was able to stay patient. I was able to stay kind. There were moments I began to waiver, but I held on. I grew a little in that car ride home.
The idea that you can grow during times of frustration and chaos is powerful. Not every moment needs to be perfect in order to make the right choices. Chaos can be happening around us, but it doesn't mean it has to live within us.
Keep showing up mamas. One foot in front of the other.