You’ve heard the saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction,” haven’t you? As a military wife, my life has been full of events that can be described as stranger than fiction. I married young. When I say young, I mean “teenager young.” And, I am still married to the same guy after all these years and everything we’ve been through. Being military means you “get” to move around a lot. This isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, but we’ve had our share of adventures.
I was married young, and I had children young, so I didn’t get much of a chance to grow up before I had kids. However, one thing is for certain. I took my responsibilities very seriously as a parent. I have always been that way, taking responsibilities seriously, and to a fault. I may not have been the best parent, but I was the best I could be. I read all the how-to-parent books I could get my hands on. Lacking maturity, I tried to be the best self-taught parent I could be. But, God has a sense of humor, and children, in my opinion, are born with personalities intact. Oh, sure, you can try to shape and mold them, but they will end up who they are because of a mixture of the personality they are born with and the way they were raised.
Being a military spouse also means that sometimes your spouse will be deployed overseas and beyond for extended periods of time. That leaves you to raise your kids alone during this time. When my oldest was 5 and my youngest was 2, my husband was deployed for 6 months to Japan. Lucky him! While he was gone, I moved place settings on the table around so that I could reach each child easily. This becomes important as a “helping” parent. I sat at the head, or some call it the end, of the table with a child on each side of me. I was so happy when my husband came back that I fixed a nice supper and served it on good china. Don’t ever do this the first night your husband comes home after being away for so long. Not only will you be too busy and too tired to enjoy him, it is easier to just pick something up to eat or go out to eat and then come home to relax.
Our “perfect” supper was soon to be ruined by an angry 2-year old who didn’t like being moved down a notch on the seating arrangements. She threw her china plate onto the vinyl flooring that we had in base housing, and it shattered. My husband then looked at me and said, “Is this what you’ve been teaching my children to do while I’ve been gone?” <sigh>
This 2-year old was the second child, the strong-willed child, the one took up all my energy so I never gained weight when she was small, and the one I didn’t have any answers for nor had a clue how to discipline her to get her attention. You have to find their weak spot. My oldest child loved being alone in her room with a book, so Time Out didn’t work for her. My youngest loved being around others and in their business, with her fingers under the bathroom door when others were using it. So, Time Out, as I LATER learned, did work for her.
My children have taught me a TON over the years. Not only did I shape their personalities, but they molded mine as well. Not long after the China Plate Revolt, my husband came home in the middle of the day. He NEVER came home in the middle of the day. I was trying my best to potty train her. I even succumbed to the M&M Bathroom Bribe – you know the one, where you give the kid and M&Ms for each successful potty pee or poop. I said I’d never do that, but I did. Before you have children of your own, there are a lot of things you say you will or won’t do as a parent, and then reality sets in. Such was the day my husband came home in the middle of the day…
I was busy in the kitchen and hadn’t checked on the kids in almost 10 minutes. I knew better than to let it go that long, but they were making happy noises, so surely they hadn’t gotten into anything. It’s when they are quiet that you have to be worried. When I went to check on them, I could not believe my eyes. The 2-year old was on top of the chest of drawers with nothing on from the waist down. Next to her was a pile of poop, obviously hers. The drawers were all open with clothes strung all over the place. I can only imagine this is how she got up there. There were toys scattered all over the floor of the bedroom. The 5-year old had a tube of Desitin in her hands, Desitin that she had smeared all over 3 walls. Do you know what Desitin is? It’s that greasy stuff you put on babies’ bottoms when they have diaper rash. Do you know how hard that stuff is to remove from walls???
I was in shock and very upset. As a good mom, the first thing I did was get the 2-year old down from the top of the chest of drawers (safety first) and then I went out to the hallway, shut the door, hugged my back to the wall with my arms outstretched and hands clinging to the wall, and counted to 10. I needed to be calm before braving that room. Before I got to 10, in walks my husband. I was so upset; I didn’t hear him come home. I asked him what he was doing home, and he said he was changing out of his uniform and into civilian clothes because the colonel was having a Goodbye Party off the base. I was trying to hurry him along, so I could get back to the mess in the bedroom. Also, I didn’t want him to see the mess, because I didn’t want him to think I taught our children to do THAT, too, while he was deployed.
I don’t know why God plays these tricks on us, but the timing of events was impeccable that day. Just about the time that he was emptying his pockets of the change he had and was getting ready to take it into the 2-year-old’s bedroom to put in her piggy bank, there was a loud crash; the sound of a ceramic piggy bank breaking. My husband asked, “What was that?” to which I replied, “I didn’t hear anything.” Trying to hurry him along, I offered to take the change and put it in the bank myself. He wasn’t having any of that and was going to see the kids before he left.
<pause and sigh>
You know… there is one thing you should NEVER do if you don’t want someone to do something. Don’t tell them not to do it. Foolishly, I blocked the entrance with arms spread wide and said, “Don’t go in there!” Idiot me. Now he was insistent that he was going in there. He moved me out of the way, swung open the door, eyes skirting the room and then the disbelieving bulge came from his eyes as he jumped back. “There’s SHIT!!! On top of. The chest of drawers!!! HOW? Did it get up there?” At that point in our marriage, after he had accused me of teaching our kids to throw china plates and other ill behaviors, I figured I had nothing to lose. If he hadn’t yet figured out this parenting thing was hard work, he was not living in the real world. I replied, “Well, darling, I put it up there just for you!” Stunned, and not having time to deal with what he had just witnessed, he left.
So, onto the next task at hand, clean up the shards of ceramic piggy bank and the coins small enough for a toddler to choke on. Right as I was finishing up the Bank Bamboozle, and before I was able to put a diaper, panties, or clothing on the bottom half of my 2-year-old, her Godfather shows up from his secret mission in El Salvador, him and his 2 kids who were several years older than mine. You just can’t make this stuff up, folks! Seriously! He had gifts for the kids, but I couldn’t let them out, because the 2-year old was half naked. Finding this out, T (my 2-year-old’s Godfather’s son) decided that he HAD to run outside and look into the window of the notorious bedroom. <sigh> What can you do? I then was able to get her dressed and there were no more misadventures that day. You know how bad things come in threes? I was waiting for a 3rd unexpected visit that day, but we never got it.
The lesson learned from this was humbleness. Before I had kids I was a “cool chica.” What happened after kids was that my hair wasn’t what I aimed for and neither was life. Life can throw you some curve balls, but in the end, the experiences are what makes it worth it. Yes, I have had a lot of unbelievable experiences and stories to share from my life, but, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. What has happened to me has made me into a better person, one who is more patient and accepting of others. At the time it wasn’t funny, but God was probably saving my kids’ lives. Now I can look back on it, shake my head because we tend to hear about stuff like this happening to others and not us. And I can laugh my fool head off, especially when truth is stranger than fiction.
*Editor’s Note & Disclaimer: The Desitin Daughter is now a published author. And the 2-year-old? She is now a Paramedic who has cleaned up more than her fair share of poop and people’s messes. She is also studying to be a doctor of Chinese Medicine. So, be patient, Moms. There’s hope yet for both you and your kids!