Saturday, July 6, 2013

Amazing Evolution of a Fire Wife

I am amazed at how we as fire wives learn to adapt and evolve.  Three years ago we were preparing for the academy.  I knew life was going to change, but I did not realize that I would be standing on my head most days.  That first year was miserable! 
 I was trying SO hard to be supportive, but I found more resentment than anything else.  The academy left me with 5 children instead of 4.  I was helping him study every night, trying to keep him awake, after chasing after the kids alone all day.  I mean, I had a 2 year-old!  I learned how to mow the lawn and solidified the fact that I HATE doing laundry alone.  I moved my classroom from our garage to a school more than an hour away from our home - with four children in tow.  My FF was learning his place in the fire world and the life of a cub was not exactly easy. Trick-or-treating was his first shift, his captain welcomed us with open arms, but my FF hurried us out - quickly - so as not to take any flack for us being there. Thanksgiving was alone, well, without my FF.  But, all I had to do was the side dishes, so all was well, or as well as it could be. When he was on shift Christmas Eve we visited Daddy with cookies at the firehouse.  I learned to play Santa ALL BY MYSELF - even with our oldest refusing to go to sleep because he needed to see Santa.  I learned to juggle everything when he was mandated for Christmas Day.  Everything that could go wrong, did, when he was on shift.  I am oh so grateful that I had family close by when there were ER visits that turned into admissions - and he was on shift.  Not many events for my shining moments highlight reel here.  But we made it through that first year - kind of clinging to each other, but together.

Two years ago, I  was still trying to figure out what in the heck was going on.  Still trying to manage the muppets, potty training and "stuff" by myself.  I was still learning to sleep alone and how to be happy in our marriage with him gone most of the time.  I was packing up our house (and unpacking) - alone.  I found myself in a city where I knew no one. BUT, I learned how to just be during this time.  Our house was broken  into - while he was on shift. My FF found himself in the med program, so I found myself with a 5 kids again. I found myself learning different classifications of drugs and protocol for various scenarios.  Again, he was in class all day, studying all night.  But this time, I did not have family 5 minutes away - I was truly on my own.  We hadn't made close friends, we weren't in this city long enough.  I learned that you just have to roll with things and deal with them.  

Last summer, I packed up our house - AGAIN - alone.  I unpacked and established our house, alone, AGAIN.  BUT, this time, I had a FF family next door - on the same shift.  We had never met until we came to look at the house.  My husband "knew" the FF from the department, but they were not friends.  But this time I was not alone.  My family was on the other side of town, but at least we were in the same city.  When something goes wrong on shift days, I literally have someone right next door to help with my muppets.  Football season sucked my soul, but having a fire family next door made it suck a but less.  When it was a shift day and I brought the three younger muppets home to eat and play, she would often take them and get them in the shower for me so I could make the hour and half round trip back to get the oldest.  
Somehow a FF was desperate to get New Year's Eve off, so my FF was home for Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day.  The muppets and I chilled and had sparkling apple juice for NYE.  My boys made it past midnight.  And it was just fine.  It was fun and it was bonding.  Would I have loved for my FF to be home?  Of course, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway.  We have learned to be our own people. 

This summer, I think we have finally found our groove.  It is not heartbreaking when we come to the firehouse and his rig is out.  In fact last night, daddy had a trade at a quiet house - back half of a 48.  And when we go there, you guessed it, the engine was out.  (My FFW gal next door said it is me - if the engine is out THERE, it is just me!  lol) No worries, I LOVE this neighborhood, so we walked over to the local Italian grocery story, grabbed some cookies for my FFW next door, commented on how many of these businesses had water out for their k9 customers and made our way back.  The engine pulled back into quarters while we were about a block away.  Perfect time.  We had watermelon with daddy.  Played in the engine, took a look at the pictures of the original house, with its horse drawn fire wagon - not even a steam engine.  And all was well.  We went to dinner with my dad, I got the kids to bed.  Earlier this week, I did all the 4th of July stuff, alone.  And for the first time.  That was okay.  I am okay when he's too busy for a phone call.  I appreciate when he his home for holidays, but it no longer rocks my being. 

Not only do the firefighters in our lives grow and evolve, but so do we.  We are amazing and strong and resourceful.  We just have to have faith in ourselves.  No matter where you are on the journey of a fire wife, know that it is a journey.  You will look at things through a different lens as the experience progresses.  Whether you are 
pulling your hair out because he has back to back 48s and the babies are sick and there's no food in the house and the dog made a mess and...
wishing he would go back to work so you can watch what you want on TV or just read your newest Nook procurement.  

Muppets with my phone - yesterday's shenanigans.
These experiences shape who you are.  They strengthen your character and make you, you.  Love the time when your firefighter is with you.  Cherish those moments.  But also learn to love the time you have with yourself.  Learn one thing about your kids each shift or plan one activity for just you and your muppets.  That way not only do they cherish the fun that they have when Daddy comes home, but also the time when they don't have to share mommy with daddy.  Simple things - picnic lunch in the park with your girlfriend and her kids, glow in the dark bubbles, chalk drawings, a girls only movie night or a Foosball tourney in the basement.  Just have fun.  The laundry will still be there (trust me, it doesn't go away) but the kids are not always going to be there.

My FF will be home in about an hour.  My muppets have officially been worn out and are still sleeping.  Life is crazy, but these moments of peace remind me that this is life. Tomorrow is his last 24 hour shift for a while.  I am excited to have dinner with him and walk through the neighborhood with him every night.  I love having him home, please don't think I don't.  But, I have also learned to love the time with myself.  Love that firefighter, love your muppets and love yourself.  Keys to happiness, for sure.
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