Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Married a School-Teacher, and Got a Cop. . .Blog Day #13

You know the cliche "When life throws you lemons, make lemonade."? Well, what do you do when life throws you a pickle? And I don't mean those cute little ones that you can eat one at a time. I mean one of those pickles that only fit one to a giant jar. What are you supposed to do with that?

We are coming up to my husband's 5 year anniversary of being an officer of the California Highway Patrol.  Prior to graduating, he lived at the academy for an intense 7 months. I had three toddlers and one baby on the way. Zoe was born during break-in, during which his FTO was very understanding and let him come home for a couple weeks while I recuperated. But while my husband passed his break-in period without having to repeat any phases, and he got through his first year of probation, I felt like I just finished my break-in period.

Let's go back a little to the man I married 10, almost 11, years ago. We were fresh out of college, working with childen with disabilities, and starting our family early. While I was taking care of an infant for the first time, the Hubbie decided to go to credential school at night and take a job as a History/Government teacher at Woodland Christian High School. Oh, and he was Davis High's head wrestling coach. And did I mention we had a baby at home?

If you read between the lines, you would know this: The man never slept.

Since high schools start insanely early, he was out early in the morning to get to work before the kids got there. Then he would hop over to Davis and work with more teenagers, this time teaching them how to wrestle. After practice, he would either make the drive to Sacramento for classes or he would come home and grade papers and lesson plan. Add in the usual drama at work, drama with parents, drama with teachers, drama with class credits, etc. . .And hospital bills (which someone soo generously helped us with, knowing how big our paycheck was), a crazy nursing wife and a baby who cried to settle into her naps. 

To say the least, the man was busy. And stressed out.  I haven't even mentioned a Bible study we attended and church on Sundays. It became clear that, while he loved the kids he was around and developed special relationships with some of them that are still close today, teaching was not something he would be able to do for the rest of his working days. Not in a life-fulfilling, contentment-causing, clearly-a-calling kind of way. 

So he applied for the California Highway Patrol. He entered the academy in November of '05. The academy was the easiest part on my end. I could see there was a renewed purpose, discipline and challenge. He was finally "home". All he had to do was pass and make it to the end without injuries.  Piece of cake. . .And he was so nice when he came home on weekends because he missed us. Plus he didn't have to deal with a potty training boy who smeared poop all over the walls.

He did graduate and I got to pin his badge on his uniform. He was finally allowed to be called "Officer." I threw him a party with all our friends. I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with my fourth child and was a great wife that day. I threw the party, then spent most of the night between two puking kids. Then I spent the next week apologizing to half of the party that got the stomach flu from cute little baby Charlotte.  Thankfully, the Hubbie didn't get it and was still able to report to Castro Valley the next Monday.

And that's how I started my spouse break-in period.  It's a long process of adjusting to changing shifts, changing personalities, changing sleep patterns (his, not mine) and changing outlooks on life (his, not mine). There is an alarming amount of wives who don't make it, or who are so hurt and embittered by this period of time that they never recover. Well, I think I've made it. I'll share what I think helped me through, and what will help me make it to retirement. . .

If I were to be graded on my "performance" these last 5 years, here's what the list of items would be:
1) "When he's working, he's working. When he's home, he's home." Knowing that the schedule is just a guideline. Treating workdays as 24 hour shifts. Expecting overtime shifts. Communicating well when you need a break from the extra hours. Having a good attitude about court on RDOs.  Planning without him, and treating his presence at activities as a bonus. Always having a back-up plan without being untrusting. Being gracious when graveyard shifts means adding an extra workday to the schedule for sleeping.
2) When he's at work, he can take people to jail for not obeying. And if they threaten his life, he can shoot them. Remembering the posture he must take at work, and giving him a little wiggle room to be bossy. Allowing him to help and take charge because that is the part of his personality that makes him successful at his job. Not undermining him by challenging his authority in front of the children. Communicating calmly and in private when conflict arises from strong personality or personalities. Communicating with carefully chosen and specific words and clear emotional expression. Prohibiting husband bashing and speaking only positively about him in public.
3)When one works with "dirtbags" all shift long, one can become jaded with life. Everyone becomes a "dirtbag." Expecting him to sometimes be suspicious, closed, and over-protective. Expecting him to go through anti-social periods of time. Extending grace when more expletives are used than comfortable to listening ears. Keeping one's own attitude in check when his is being a party-pooper.

Anyway, I totally can't even pretend that I am scoring high on all of these. I often have a stinky attitude when he needs to relax and do nothing for his days off. I often feel burnt out after weeks of single parenting. I often feel a little bitter going to family gatherings by myself. I admit to feeling so spent that I'm annoyed at bedtime when the four year old won't let me leave the room until I give her more kisses and squeezes and hugs.

But, as they said at the academy, "It's not just a job, it's a lifestyle."  Whacked out schedules, crazy sleeping patterns, Type A to the 100th power personalities, potty mouths, etc. . .Just take it in stride.

It's been 5 years for me. . .I can't say that I love it all of the time. But I made it. I put in 100% and will continue to do so. I pray and pray for him every shift and trust that he's in God's care. I remind myself that he is doing what he has been called to do, and I've been called to support him and be the other half. I don't expect him to be the school-teacher anymore. He is a cop. And I am his wife.

Only 25 more years to go. . ..

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