Remember the guy I sat next to on the way to Vegas? Overall, I liked him. He was a nice row buddy for a 4 1/2 hour flight. But, he did say something to me that stung. At one point we got to talking about occupations that take you away from home. This is a natural dialogue that often comes up when you mention that your husband is a pilot. Well, his son travels for work as well. If memory serves me right the son goes away for weeks at a time to do installations of sewer systems...or something like this. Keeping that in mind, and stating again that he is gone weeks at a time, the man was talking about how it was hard on the family, especially the 4-year-old son. The man then said "a son needs his father."
BAM! I took that as criticism on how I am raising my family. So, was he implying that I am not raising my son, and daughter, in the best environment possible? Was he saying that my children will not thrive because Steve isn't around all the time? Are my kids going to suffer because Steve isn't always home?
Now let's not forget, Papa, that you are currently on a plane. This plane is being flown by two pilots, who probably have kids. They are hauling your ass so that you can see your daughter in Arizona. Yes, these pilots have chosen this job, and are doing their job, and getting paid for doing their job. But because of people like you, there is a need for those guys up there. So, don't tell me that it sucks for my son that his Daddy isn't around when you are using the very service that my pilot husband provides for people like you. See how I don't take criticism well. I can get kind of get bitchy. That aside, let me also establish that I am thankful for Papa and all the people who fly the friendly skies, because it keeps my husband working and keeps food on our table...just don't tell me that my son is going to suffer since his Daddy isn't always around.
Remember that I had a business trip last week that took me to ATL for the day. Since I had a o'dark hundred alarm clock and just an all around busy day, by the time I got to the gate for my 4:09p flight I was beat. I sat down at a bank of chairs, looked at the man next to me, and said "I am ready to go home."
This was an ice breaker, and we proceeded to talk for the next 10 minutes or so. He was an interesting guy. Middle-aged, married, had teenage kids, from Romania, a petroleum engineer who now works with engineering concrete. He travels a lot for work. At one point there was discussion about him being gone a lot and the effects on his kids.
BAM! Twice in a couple weeks. I don't take criticism well, people!
Ben's imagination is really active right now. This means that unfamiliar sounds must be made by ghosts, and he gets scared. He doesn't like going to his bedroom alone because it is dark, and of course dark = scary. You get the picture. His active imagination also means imaginative play...so, trips back into the woods with Daddy means it is time to play "jungle monsters." Ben loves playing "jungle monsters" and Steve plays right along.
I have made it know that Steve is a very hands on Dad. When Steve plays with the kids, he gets way into it. This means hours at the race track:
or getting into costume to play superheros:
I think this all makes for Ben loving this playtime, and missing it all-the-more when Daddy isn't around. Lately, when Steve leaves for a trip Ben will later tell me "Daddy and I didn't play jungle monsters." They did, in fact, play jungle monsters, but Ben just wants more of it.
When Ben says things like this, it isn't a BAM! but rather a SHATTER! That is the sound of my heart breaking. It breaks my heart when Ben wants Daddy and he isn't around. These are the times when I wish Steve were home every night. See Papa, you don't have to tell me that my son is going to suffer...Ben tells me firsthand that he is suffering. That hurts worst of all.
I often think about the reality that is our life, and the home environment that the kids are being brought up in. When I get these BAM! moments again and again, it makes me question things. It is sad to think that these kids want for their Daddy. Is this really the life these kids live? Are the kids going to resent Daddy for being gone all the time? What are we doing here?! Family is top priority and this job is effecting this top priority. This is just a job. Is it worth it?
And then I settle down, and reason takes over. There will be moments here and there that the kids get upset. There will be moments here and there that I get upset thinking about Steve being out of our lives 4-days a week. But, they are just moments. And, they are kids. Kids are resilient. They will deal with this reality just fine. Why? Because reality is the world in which you are born.
These kids were born into a life where Daddy is gone. The kids know no different. Just like Steve thought that all parents had the summers off since his teacher parents did, our kids probably think that all Daddys leave for work. And by the time they realize what really happens in households, it won't make a difference. Why? Because this is their reality and their norm will have been totally established by that point.
I also want to make the point that Ben is only 4 1/2-years-old, so I am still pretty new to this parenting thing. I still don't know enough to know that having a pilot Daddy is okay since the kids are still so young. And CC is so young that she probably doesn't totally get when Steve is and isn't gone. She will mention him, I will say that he is working, and that is that. This lack of years and experience is why I still question this lifestyle at times. Maybe this questioning will never go away? Maybe I will question myself more and more the older the kids get?
When I have any doubt, I always think about a dear Peace Corps friend of mine whose father is a (now retired) airline pilot. I never heard her talk about her dad being gone all the time, or anything negative about his job. This is my saving grace. She is a very well rounded, bright, accomplished, beautiful woman. I always think of her and say "if she can have a pilot Dad and turn out normal, then it can be done!"
This all circles back to the point I have made before about making your home a happy place, a place that your pilot wants to come home to. In making it a happy place for your pilot, you are also making it a happy place for your kids. I mentioned that I had a bad attitude lately. Folks, the clouds have cleared out. CAVU! My attitude is back to normal, and you know what...my kids are better behaved. No question. My attitude rubbed off on them, both bad and good. I mention this because if I keep the home a happy place, then the kids will have a happy childhood...with and without the presence of Steve. Maybe I should go as far as saying that it is our job to help our kids not miss Daddy. This may put more pressure on you as a mother, but it will pay off! You are the constant in the kids life, so you have a pretty big job to do.
When I look back on the 14 years that Steve and I have been together, I don't think about all the times he was gone. Ok, maybe I will think about the things he misses, here and there. More so, I think about all the times he was present. Day-in/day-out life is rather mundane. Steve misses the mundane part of life. We need to focus on the times he is home, and make the most of it. Those moments will make the memories of our lives. Hey, and let's not forget that because of Steve's occupation we get to travel to some pretty badass places. Now, that is when some great memories will be made.
Maybe Steve isn't spending the most quantity of time with the kids, but at least Steve spends quality time with the kids. And maybe that will be my response when someone