by Eric Gardner, guest contributor
As families sit around the dinner table it’s a wonderful time to catch up on the day’s events or reminisce about the past.
One of the favorite topics at my house is all the “fun” things my daughters and I do when my wife is away on TDY orders, deployments or training.
While I’m never completely sold out by my girls; it’s really only because some of those unique nuances of anarchy when Mom’s gone are a normal way of life for us.
We’re always swimming in the deep end of life watching for that next crazy wave to head our way.
In the unpredictable world of the military lifestyle our families are kept constantly on their toes. Our modern nomadic spirit keeps us in some phase of pre/post deployment bedlam, or we find our days intermingled with various stages of the training cycle.
To say our family dynamic is kept in a volatile state of constant flux wouldn’t do it justice.
When compared to the length of a career, these short sprints of time help to sort out the new roles everyone will have to take on. Everyone rows in our family. If we all work together it will make the challenges pass that much faster.
However, each of us understands that it’s a real adjustment for the entire family whenever they are missing one of their members. Doubly so when a service member is away.
As a stay-at-home dad I get my fair share of jokes leveled in my direction. They are usually tied to Stan Dragoti’s classic film “Mr. Mom.” To be honest I don’t mind the comparison to Michael Keaton’s character because there are so many moments I can relate to.
Perhaps not so blatant a comparison as vanquishing the family vacuum; I’m pretty proficient.
Or sword fighting the popcorn maker; well maybe that one.
However, when those TDY trips would come up we enjoyed the neighborhood poker games and the lumberjack persona was a very in style look.
It’s not that the life of the military spouse is all fun and games. The adaptations we make to support our service members are more in keeping with trying to ensure the train is still moving forward even if that means only one wheel is on the ground at any given time.
Oftentimes pizza or fast food become the “splurge” to help ease the stress of separation. When my girls were younger the island of dishes in the sink would typically consist of every plate, glass and utensil we owned before I would devote energy to get the kitchen back to normal. Bedtimes would get extended, storytime would last forever, and our supply of ice cream would vanish soon after it was brought home from the commissary. An outing to Chuck E. Cheese and later Dave and Busters were entertaining and helped pass the time.
But all these “fun” things only acted as a distraction to the one resounding fact; Mom couldn’t be there.
Schedules, routines, patterns are things that help us survive the mayhem that is the military lifestyle. But like Jack in Mr. Mom, we will always be bombarded with new challenges, yet I really strive to emulate his attitude of perseverance to the daily insanity that was all around him.
Whether it’s the unique approach to stitching up torn clothing with a stapler, wearing a plaid shirt with striped pants — a favorite of my youngest when Mom’s gone — or rocking out to Taylor Swift with the volume so loud the neighbors 5 houses away can hear it.
All of these crazy moments are for one reason – to try to fill the void, we feel when our service member isn’t home with us.
As you can imagine when we’re all back at the dinner table once more, our “fun” may look a little different but we enjoy it so much more because we’re finally all together again.
Eric Gardner was raised in a military family and lived around the world. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the U.S. Army as an Infantry Officer. Since the end of his wartime service he has shifted gears and is now a stay-at-home father. In his role as an active duty Army spouse, he has become an author. As the creator of the XIII Legion Series he has enjoyed great success, and enjoys meeting other entrepreneurial spouses as well as fellow authors. You can see more from Eric Gardner at his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/thirteenthlegion.series, and http://www.facebook.com/XIIILGN or follow him via Twitter @13thLegion.