On my actual birthday Steve sent me flowers from he and the kids.
I took the kids to dinner since, of course, a Mother should not have to cook on her birthday. And Steve wished me birthday wishes multiple times throughout the day over the phone. All-in-all a fine day.
When he got home the next day, we went to dinner as a family and had birthday cake when we got home. As the evening started to wind down, I started to think...a birthday gift wasn't coming my way.
When the kids were down for the night, Steve made his way into the family room and sat down. I looked his way and said "am I correct in that you didn't get me a gift?" I was trying hard as hell to hold in the tears at that point.
He gave me the most desperate look, and responded with a "no, I didn't."
I immediately went upstairs to our bedroom, shut the door and cried my eyes out. It was that really ugly cry, too. Red face...tears everywhere...can't catch your breath...
Steve came up twice trying to talk to me. I would have none of it. I basically shut the door in his face and demanded I not speak to him. I was crushed...just crushed.
I feel asleep at some point, and woke up the next morning with Steve on the far side of our king sized bed. I got ready for work, walked downstairs and found that Steve has emailed me around 10:30p the night before. We often communicate via email or text when we are in the middle of something - we find this way really works for us to work things out.
Here is a part of his email to me:
what I can tell you is that I think after fucking this up again, I might be getting a little clarity on what your birthday means to you ..... I know you ,and I know that you are not a materialistic person, so this is obviously not about a gift per se....but I think what you are looking for is some validation for all that you do.....lets face it, you keep the ship running.....the laundry is done, the house is clean, the kids are happy and I am happy.....but you don't really ever get a big THANK YOU for all that you do to keep the ship together...and for you, one place you expect to be shown the appreciation you deserve is on your birthday.....your are working overtime to make things work, but yet I have not expressed my gratitude to you for this....I have not shown you just how much I appreciate what you do on a daily basis for our family.....for that I am sorry, because you DO deserve to be pampered....and you deserve to be pampered on more days than just your birthday.....lately it's been all take and no give....I am sorry that this has happened.....
I was glad to see the email. I was glad to see that he may be finally starting to understand this whole birthday thing. In the past Steve has been known to fuck up my birthday...anything from not even acknowledging it until I actually said something, to being away on a guys weekend...so it was great to hear that he came to this enlightenment.
During the next couple days, I was trying my hardest not to be mad. I knew his actions weren't meant to hurt me, so mad wasn't really an emotion in the equation. But, I was just so crushed that I was down...really down.
Here is another part of his email to me:
I hate myself for hurting you and letting you down again....really, you make me so very happy and I never express that to you.....I want to make you happy and I want you to feel appreciated.....You are a wonderful wife and an even better mother....the kids and I are so blessed to have you in our lives....you give and give......you are so selfless when it comes to us....you always put us before you.....I want to ease your load and make you happy....if you will let me, I would like to start to relieve some of your load.....I can cook dinner when I am home....I can take the kids to Polish class, Gymnastics, etc., I can take CC to school and pick her up, I can give the kids baths and put them down....I can do anything else you want me to .....I just want you to be happy.....
The reason I am bringing this situation up to all my fellow pilot wives and pilot readers, is for three reasons:
#1. Show appreciation to the person that keep the house running when the pilot is away. Our job is not easy, and it can surely wears on us. We need to hear and be shown that appreciation and validation for all that we do. And if you don't, you get one pissed off pilot wife! Tell her she is awesome. Show your appreciation for her. Give her a break every now and again. I know you pilots may not be the best at expressing what you feel. I still blame that on the demand to respond to ATC. But, do it.
#2. To all the pilots out there - give a little more.
Before this "birthday thing" Steve would have said to me on the afternoon post-redeye "Joanna, I am just so exhausted, can you get Cici from school?"
And I would do it...even though I have been doing drop-off and pick-up for daycare for what seems like every.single.day for the last 6 years of my life. I knew he was tired so I wanted to make him happy. And I didn't want to poke the beast that he can be post red-eye. But now, post "birthday thing"? Steve will go get Cici without hesitation. He knows it is his turn, and doesn't add me to the equation.
In the mix of all of our texts and emails, there was one text that stood out:
I just want you to know that the last week you said some pretty hurtful things to me and I have let it slide, but it was hurtful enough that I feel I should say something...I am asking you to STOP telling me that I am interrupting your routine...it hurts bad...basically you are telling me that I am in the way and I should butt out of your lives...that I am not needed because I get in the way.This text message goes deep, in that Steve was gone a lot during the months of late August/early September to care for his Mother. (Duty) When our schedule got back to our normal, it took a good number of weeks to recover. Steve and I were at each other...a lot. To the point where our family was even taking note of it. One night in particular Steve was putting the kids down, and since it was so late he told the kids he wasn't going to read them a bedtime story. Cici did not take this well, and cried and cried. I butted in, told him that it is our routine to read a book, and that of course she was going to cry when her routine was interrupted.
Bad Joanna, I know. But, I have made a point to keep the routine of our kids the same with AND without Steve around. I have done this because I feel it is important for the kids to not feel the affects of Steve absence, and so far it has worked for us. I feel that when Steve is home he needs to meld into our routine, and that is usually the case. But, since he was gone for such a long time, I believe he got out of step with our routine.
#3. To all the pilot wives out there - let him in.
I realized post "birthday thing" that I needed to let him in. Let him into your life at home. Instead of criticizing him for not knowing "our routine" gently guide him to get into the routine...don't demand it and shame him for not knowing it. Work together. Be that united front with the kids, not on opposing teams.
Looking back, I realized how controlling I was over the kids and the house. Part of it is my personality, and part of it is out of necessity because I have to run things when Steve is away. But it took this "birthday thing" for me to realize that it may have been a bit too much. Instead of trying to run every aspect of our lives every.single.day, I have learned to let him in and let him take care of things.
After knowing Steve since 1999 / after being married for 10 years / and after 6 years of being parents I/we are still learning and growing. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. The "birthday thing" told me to set back and stop trying to control everything...to let Steve into our lives. Hopefully this birthday thing has taught Steve to never fuck up by birthday! And I know that it taught him to show his appreciation to me, and to help out a bit more.