*A repost of a blog Justin wrote on The Simple Things on 27 March 2013
Starting this, I made the decision not to include names because while this is about me and my family, it could be about anyone who is or cares for a veteran. Reading through my first post I realized that I’m probably going to have to add names because otherwise points or stories I’m trying to convey won’t flow. So, here’s what I’ve come up with. My pen name for a novel I’ve been working on is Jackson so I’m going to go with that for myself. I’ll refer to my fiancée as Marilyn because she gorgeous and curvy, and the little man will be Jimmy after Jimmy Neutron who’s super smart and uses it to both get himself in and out of trouble! HA!
In the first post I gave a basic run down of how it is I came to begin a blog. In that I touched on Jimmy and the fact all the adults get along and always try and do what’s in his best interest. What I didn’t mention was that he actually lives with his dad and step-mom and not with us. How did this come to be you may be asking. As many single parents in the military may elect to do, when Marilyn was to be deployed Jimmy went to live with his dad. At the time it was supposed to be a temporary situation and Jimmy would return to live with his mom once her deployment was complete and she was back on American soil. However, when she came home sick everything changed. She had to make a tough decision and to her credit, though not the easiest one, she decided that it was best for Jimmy to stay with his dad and step mom.
I’ve had people make comments or give me funny looks when they find out the situation, which I understand to a point. When I first saw her pictures and read her profile (we actually met on match.com) the red flag went up for me when I saw that she had a son but he didn’t live with her. However, it was quickly set aside when she told me what the situation was. Would we love to have him here? Absolutely. Is it possible right now? No, I don’t think so. He’d have to give up so much. He loves hockey, lacrosse, and karate and at our current location we have none of those available. He’s in a great school and has friends he’d have to leave and he’d be entering into a situation where his mom gets sick from time to time which really affects him. She’s aware of all this, as am I, but it’s hard; it’s really, really hard.
What people don’t see is how upsetting it is for her. Not just when he calls and he’s unhappy about something but also from time to time it’ll really hit her that he’s so far away and she can’t see him everyday. I’ve awoken in the middle of the night to her watching his favorite cartoons and cuddled up with his blanket and one of his stuffed animals. For me it’s hard because there’s nothing I can do right now to change the situation. We’re looking for an opportunity to move closer (right now we’re over 8 hours away) and we get to have him on vacations during the school year and for the summer but it’s not the same as I’m sure anyone in a similar situation, be they male or female, can attest.
As I mentioned in my previous post, his dad and step mom are great people. The first time I took Marilyn to see Jimmy after we met, his dad had reservations about me meeting Jimmy because Marilyn and I hadn’t been together very long. While she was annoyed, I had no issues with it and understood his feelings completely. He was protecting his son and if you can’t have respect for a man who wants to protect his boy who the hell can you respect? That weekend I did get a chance to meet the dad for a few minutes and we talked some after and then the next visit I did get a chance to meet Jimmy. It all worked out like it was supposed to in the end because everyone handled the situation appropriately.
And that’s how things have worked since. Discussions take place when issues arise, they get resolved, and it’s on to the next thing. Do we all have different parenting philosophies? I think it some respects yes but as of yet it I haven’t seen where it’s hampered the care, education, or health of Jimmy. Everyone brings their own experiences and backgrounds into any parenting situation and as long as everyone can act like an adult issues can remain minimal. I know it makes Marilyn feel much better about the situation knowing the Jimmy is in excellent hands and is well taken care of. Would she prefer that he was with us? Of course she would as would I. Honestly, what parent wouldn’t. But knowing that he’s in a safe, healthy situation and we have the ability to see him on a semi regular basis makes things better, at least a little.
Navigating life with a child is a difficult task for anyone. For those in the military, the circumstances are often compounded with issues the general public will likely never have to face. I think it’s the same for a parent with a disability. Parent’s often make decisions that put the child’s welfare ahead of their own and when it’s a necessary requirement for others to help you with daily living, those decisions are sometimes made much more difficult. Will she second guess some of her decisions? Likely. Will I second guess some of the decisions we’ve made together? Likely. I came into this late and am kind of learning on the fly. I’m thankful to the 3 of them for their willingness to be open to discussions because the last thing I want are more issues, especially ones that not need be.
So I know this went a little off with the discussion about co-parenting but it’s definitely a huge part of 5 lives in this situation. While Marilyn’s disabilities may have changed the circumstances of Jimmy’s living situation, it hasn’t changed the content of character of any of the adults involved and that’s key. Yes, it’s hard having him so far away, especially on her, but right now it’s working as best as it can. Later I’ll get into our living situation a little more and how we came to be here but looking back, for a variety of reasons it may not have been the best choice and moving farther away from Jimmy tops the list of reasons why. However, for now it’s what we have to work with and for the most part we do. We even received a surprise at Christmas when Jimmy showed up unexpectedly because his dad drove him all the way up here. It’s something I’ll forever be thankful for and a kindness I hope to be able repay someday.