(This is Meredith)
You know, Katrina, I don't think we ever really feel connected and together when we're apart no matter what we do. We try, of course, but whenever one of us is away, I feel out of sync and disconnected. And I hate it.
Thankfully, we're not usually separated for very long stretches of time. When we are though, we usually talk and text throughout the day. That helps me feel a little more in touch. So does email. So do little notes tucked away in places that we'll discover later.
I have friends whose husbands travel all the time for work and other friends who have endured their husband's very long deployments. Honestly, I can't imagine how hard that must be. I know they Skype and email and talk a lot, but it's still got to be emotionally tough.
I wish I had more encouragement for you, Katrina. I definitely think we try to make the most of the time before and after we're apart though. If John or I know we're going to be gone, we try to plan a date around that time. I was gone a couple of weekends ago and it was very nice to meet John for lunch a few days later and have time for "just the two of us" to catch up. Because as much as we miss each other when we're apart, our kids miss us too! We usually need to reconnect as a family first, and then as a couple.
Here are a couple ideas for helping kids feel connected when a parent is away. I don't think to do this as much now that my kids are older (and can send their dad a text or a photo right away) as much as I did when they were younger.
1. Set out a small basket and place items in it to show dad/mom when they return. [School papers, artwork, small gifts, coupons for extra hugs/kisses, etc].
2. Make a simple paper chain for the number of days that dad/mom will be gone. Tear one off every day as you count down to their homecoming.
3. Make a "What We Did While You Were Gone" book/journal. My kids did this a couple of summers ago while John was at a conference in Santa Fe. They each wrote a sentence or two, and drew a picture of something fun we did each day, then read through it with their dad when he got back home.
(This is John, the husband)
This is a great question. Most of our times apart are relatively short in duration, so I’ll answer from that perspective. And Meredith is very verbal, so her answer will differ from mine…I’m not so verbal. I don’t know how many of you ladies are Willie Nelson fans; if you’re not, you might consider it. I believe one of Willie’s songs is applicable here – Always On My Mind. Although ‘staying connected’ may seem easier than ever these days via email, skype, text, etc., I don’t always feel that keeps Meredith on my mind. It’s only my opinion, but I wonder sometimes if those technological wonders actually create faux connection…I don’t believe talking is always thinking.
Never underestimate the power of symbols, pictures, drawings, trinkets and notes, little things to focus your thoughts/feelings. Two quick stories, alright?
1. When I hiked the Grand Canyon, I kept a picture of Mer and the kids in my backpack. I pulled that picture out numerous times over the course of that trip, each time reconnecting myself to them, keeping them on my mind. Think about those soldiers in WWII who kept pictures of their best girl in a cameo frame…powerful stuff, sometimes literally keeping a wounded man alive.
2. I wear my wedding ring on my right hand (story for another time), but I have a tendency to rub that ring many times in a day. Each time I do, I think about Meredith, no kidding. It functions for me much like a rosary bead, reminding me of her, keeping her on my mind.
(This is Meredith)
Awwww, how sweet is he? John found this pic last night and we both thought it was HILARIOUS!