About two months after Madelyn was born, I had some family visit. We were lucky and were able to spend a lot of time with them. It was great for them to meet my newest daughter, and wonderful for Cailin to see family again. Caleb couldn’t take off from work for the first week of their visit, so it was just the girls and I driving across the island every day for the entire day.
It was about the third day before one of my aunts stopped mid-action (I can’t remember if she was changing Madelyn, making Cailin a sandwich, or helping me get stuff to the car) and said, “Man, it’s a good thing you are so independent! I never would have been this calm and collected alone with two babies!”
That stopped me. I mean, I knew I was independent – I always have been. But I hadn’t thought about it in relation to being a parent.
Suddenly, I started thinking of all the times they’d all tried to help me while Caleb wasn’t there. I thought about leaving the aquarium when my uncle and cousin tried to help me load the girls and their stuff back in the car. I did it myself. And every time we arrived at and left the house they were renting, I was greeted and escorted by people asking what they could do despite my protests of being able to get everything. When we hiked Makapu’u, my uncle took the stroller amid my objections and my aunts walked with Cailin.
It was very odd.
It’s not that my husband isn’t helpful – believe me, he’s great. He does everything he can to help me with the girls. But he’s so busy, works such long hours, and is randomly gone on trips that he’s just not here much. So when the girls and I go places, normally it is just the girls and me.
I’m the one who has to make sure that we have everything needed for both of them – diapers, wipes, change of clothes, soccer ball, ballet outfit, bathing suit, sunscreen, etc.
I have to make it fit nicely in the car.
I’m the one who has to lug all that wherever we are going.
I have to get it all out of the car and to wherever in one trip. While it’s only been a few months that I’ve been doing this with Madelyn, I’ve been playing this game with Cailin for quite some time.
And I’m used to it. I got it. I CAN DO IT.
Which is why when we were planning our big mainland trip, I didn’t think twice about Caleb having to come home two weeks early. I just got excited at the idea of being able to stay so long and see so many people and do so much.
It wasn’t until the day before we were going to fly that it hit me. I was about to travel from Washington DC to Honolulu with two small children. And a “who knows how long” layover in California waiting for a Space A flight.
It would entail two suitcases, two carry ons, one diaper bag, one book bag, one stroller, one connection in Charlotte, one shuttle from San Francisco airport to a local hotel, another shuttle the next day to Travis AFB, an indefinite stay at the hotel there, another shuttle to their terminal, and a Space A flight. By myself. With a six year old and a five month old. I put something like this on Facebook and ended with ‘Bring.It.On.’ Most friends asked me why I would ever try to do something like that.
Simple answer? I’m married to a Marine. I have to be able to do stuff like that if I want to do anything. Granted, normally, it’s something more along the lines of going to the commissary, or chaperoning a field trip. But let me tell you, after our trip, those events are cake.
I know I can count on my husband, and if I really need him, he will be there as soon as possible. (He proved this about two months in to my pregnancy when I got sick and went to the doctor. I thought it was nothing, the doctors decided ultrasounds, blood tests, etc. were all completely necessary. I called him, somewhat freaking out, and he was there in thirty minutes. No questions asked. I found out later he had to cancel a meeting with a Major…whoops!) But I also know that I should only play that card when I really absolutelycannot do it without him.
Maybe it’s because my dad was a police officer, and so I remember being halfway to dinner and having to turn around because he had to go. I remember him trying to be at events in school, but inevitably, he couldn’t make it. So, we would drop him off and head back out. Mom was at every assembly, program, and silly school play. She did it because he couldn’t. I don’t remember her complaining or making it seem like a bad thing. When I started dating Caleb and he made it clear he wanted to be a career Marine, mom sat me down and laid it out.
The job comes first. I cannot be bitter about this; it will ruin our happiness. It is an important job that many people rely on him for. The country, in fact, if we are being dramatic. He is not Caleb if he is not a Marine, much like my dad would not have been Dad if he had not been a detective. I can suck it up, put on my big girl panties, and be a happily married independent woman, or I can whine about the whole thing and watch my marriage crumble.
For me, this is an easy choice. I love this man. I love our family. So I handle the trip by myself. I go to the programs, assemblies, and events alone. I remain the independent woman I was before marriage, but I know I have a partner in life. It has taken some getting used to, but five years in, we are making it work.
I told him about the conversation my mom and I had, and I told him that I understood. I did throw in the clause that he had to make it all worth it – the missed dinners, the late nights, the no shows, being second to the job. Not once in five years have I had to remind him.