Sunday, June 3, 2012

What I Wish I Had Known

I belong to a Facebook group of "older" Army wives; we aren't all necessarily senior spouses, but we are all past the age of consent and we have a bit of perspective and maturity under our belts.

This does not keep us from snickering about naughty words, but it does mean we know how to act with decorum when the situation calls for it.

Well, most of the time.

I'm proud to call them friends.  Our discussions are lively and interesting and vastly entertaining, even on days when it's a little harder to find a smile.

Just today, the question was asked: "What are things you wish you would have known about the Army life when you were a new spouse?"  A good number of the statements below were shared on that FB page; they are all things I've learned personally as well.

When I look back, I remember lots of warnings about Army life.  That if the Army had wanted him to have a spouse, they would have issued one.  I was told that I would generally come second, and that the Army life was hard and I better be darn sure I knew what I was doing.

What I wish I had known, what I wish I had been told--

He won't hug you in uniform because it's against the rules, not because he doesn't want to hug you.   He'll still hug you later, when the unit isn't watching.

That sweet senior spouse who is taking you under her wing?  Spend more time with her.  Ask for a phone number and beg her to meet you for lunch.  She won't mind that you are clueless.

The days are long, but the years are short.   (This goes for parenthood, too.)

Everything is subject to change.   You will understand flexibility in a way you could never have imagined.

Rank is important, but not as intimidating as you believe.

Other Army spouses may not all be your friends.  But there will be a common understanding between you that soothes and comforts.

There is much to dislike about the Army life.  However, there is a dignity and strength to service that will hold you up later.

You will never look at an American flag the same way.

Your kids will be okay.  Keep being their advocate, keep believing in them.  There might have been easier ways for them to grow up, but they will end up okay in the end.

Sock more into savings.

Those free classes about understanding the Army?  Totally worth your time.  Take all of them.  (I took the first AFTB, Army Family Team Building, class when it was a pilot program at Fort Riley.  I wish I had taken the other two in person instead of online and years later.)

Be very, very careful when the First Sergeant asks the family members if they have any questions or concerns.  Sometimes he will really want to know so he can fix things.  Other times, it's a trap and it's best to keep your mouth shut.   You will not like his answer if you are wrong about his reason for asking.

Remember to hang on to who "you" are, even as you're changing into an Army wife.  When the buses leave and that farewell hug is the dimmest memory, you will need the person you are inside, most of all.

Never, ever trust the word "should," as in "We should be able to be back in time for your birthday" or "We should get reimbursed for that travel."

Take photos of everything you own.  Keep paperwork with you when you move.  The Army movers generally do a good job, but sometimes stuff happens.

Homesickness will literally make you feel sick inside, sometimes.

"Home" will have a whole new meaning for you.

Get used to writing plans in pencil.

From another blog that I wouldn't have understood as a new Army spouse-- You will have a wonderful life, and a husband you love more than anything who will come and go in and out of it.

You will get used to "hurry up and wait".  (I did not say you'd like it.)

Give your Soldier space when he first gets home.  This is as true for the moments after a regular duty day as it is for after a year-long deployment.  You will both need to adjust for a bit before you can talk it through.  (This one will be an ongoing struggle.)

Many of these things are true regardless of the marriage, regardless of the situation.  Saving, learning, staying true to yourself-- all good to know when you're young and starting out.  We grow up, we build a life, stitched together by common threads.  Military spouses often have to learn these things faster in order to keep their marriage strong, because there are so many other things we must learn at the same time.

Most important, I think, are the simplest things--

Always remember to say "I love you," even if you're mad at them.

And grab a kiss before they leave.

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