We fight after deployment. This time we fought about 2% milk. I kid you not.
Brad thought he would wait and buy milk when the store restocked with 1%. I thought anyone who finished the milk needed to supply a dairy product so I could have my coffee, dammit.
We fought about a blue spatula that I threw away during deployment because it kept jamming in the drawer. He claimed it was the only tool in the history of the world to turn a perfect fried egg and that I had set up the whole kitchen to suit myself (true).
These fights over little nothings surprised me. After all, I read the Blue Star Families ebook Everyone Serves before Brad came home from deployment.
I was prepared to “redivide household responsibilities” and “relearn the nuts and bolts of living.”
I pictured myself calm and caring, happy to accommodate this new life with Brad because I had spent so much time during the deployment wishing for it.
I did not picture myself huddled up on my side of the bed fuming and feigning sleep over 1% milk and a spatula.
But that is exactly what happens after a deployment– at least it does around here. Why does reintegration have to be so hard when we want it so much?
I got part of my answer during our biggest post deployment fight over Back To School night. I thought I had prepared the guy enough.
- I left the flyer from the school sitting on the counter with the schedule for back to school night.
- I told him Back To School Night was Thursday.
- I sent him a text Thursday afternoon reminding him about Back To School Night.
- I posted the flyer for Back To School Night on the fridge.
Then Thursday at 6:30 he called. “I’m so far behind I think I’ll just stay late tonight,” Brad said comfortably.
“Its Back To School Night,” I growled.
“Oh, OK, then I’ll meet you at home. You guys have a good time.” Click.
All of the sudden I was drenched in resentment like airplane fuel. I burst into flame.
All I could think was about many of these parent things I had attended alone over the past year. How much time I had spent forcing our son’s eyes onto his reading book. How many teacher emails I had fielded.
All I could think about was how my husband hadn’t attended a thing at school in a year.
Until that Back To School Night moment, I hadn’t had a drop of anger about it. Big deal. I figured if the teacher saw one interested parent, that was probably plenty. Besides, the guy was D-E-P-L-O-Y-E-D.
But now I was aflame with the unfairness of it all. In my head, I knew it didn’t matter whether Brad was at this particular Back to School Night or not. He is a good dad. He spends plenty of time with our son. So why so mad right now?
Because suddenly I was dealing with that bucket of resentment over parenting alone for all those months. I had ignored that bucket during the deployment—denied its existence–because I had to if I was going to get us through deployment. Anger held in plain sight wears you out fast.
But I had to deal with it now. Because that bucket is certainly part and parcel of the nuts and bolts of living Everyone Serves talks about. The authors were speaking to me and Brad when they said, “Talk openly and assertively about your expectations, wishes, and feelings. This will help to ensure that your partner knows what you need, when you need help, and what is and is not working.”
Talk openly and assertively. I thought those words meant we would have pleasant little conversations. Now I can see that is a really nice was to say “Prepare to fight fairly.”
These little things we needed to be “open and assertive” about made us mad because they weren’t little. These were the big things.
When we fought about milk, we were fighting about feeling cared for and uncared for. When we fought about a spatula, we fought about territory and whether this was still Brad’s home or not. When we fought over Back To School Night, we were fighting about how we wanted to parent and about how work fit into our lives.
Those big things don’t appear on an orderly agenda after deployment. Instead they flame on in the middle of family life. That’s what resources like Everyone Serves are trying to tell us. We have to be prepared to be open and assertive and fight fires fairly–whether we feel like it or not.
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