Category: Parenthood

Parenting in Our Mid-30s

A few days ago I gave away the last remaining artifact from our early child-rearing years – the jogging stroller. Cribs came and went. Infant car seats moved on to greener pastures rather quickly. The beloved Ergo was passed on to my younger sister and we’ve been sippy-cup free for some time now. But the BOB Revolution was with us the longest – it went on countless runs and long walks. It was pushed along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It rolled along many beaches – from North Carolina to Maine to Michigan. And it went to Disneyland. That stroller served our family well and letting it go earlier this week was yet another reminder that we’re in a new phase of life.

I never pictured myself as a young mom even though I was only 21 at our wedding. Clay and I spent the first five years of marriage blissfully kid-free and loving life with our dog. We’d offer congratulations when friends would excitedly announce pregnancies and then share a look between us that said “I’m glad it’s not us!” We knew we wanted children eventually but we were in no hurry – after all, we were young and had plenty of time to start a family.

But then we received word that Clay was going to deploy for a second time the following year. For the first time, I felt a desire to add to our family. Clay did too. It’s like we went to bed saying, “Babies are cute and all but ummm…no thanks!” and we woke up thinking, “Huh – should we add a teammate?” At the time, I was aware enough to understand that nestled within my subconscious was a desire to have a piece of Clay in case he didn’t come home from the deployment.

I do think that if there wasn’t a deployment on the horizon, we probably would have waited a couple more years. But nonetheless, we decided to try and gave ourselves an end date because neither one of us had the desire for me to give birth while Clay was in Afghanistan. And wouldn’t you know, our son was born a few weeks before Clay deployed. Looking back, I can’t believe that we decided have a baby in the middle of Clay’s Company Command time with a deployment thrown in for good measure but it felt right at the time, if not a bit a lot scary.

So I was 26 when our son was born, which I consider relatively young – especially when compared to my non-military peers. I was 30 when we brought our daughter home from the hospital and now here I am at 35 with an overwhelming sense of peace and closure as I say farewell to the last tangible piece from the baby years. I’m not sad. I don’t wish my children to be younger. I absolutely adored those years but rather than repeat them, I’m relishing in this new phase of life – one doesn’t require a jogging stroller.

We’ve known for quite some time that our family is complete. Even so, it sometimes catches us off-guard that we’re no longer immersed in a world that requires the cutting up of grapes. For Clay and I, watching our children grow and become more self-sufficient is a reminder of our own mortality as well as a beautiful gift that we don’t always feel lucky receiving. Parenthood is hard. Yes – the baby years are in the rear-view mirror but I’d argue that our children need us now more than ever. The next 12-13 years will be a whirlwind of homework, sports, music lessons, friends, puberty, dating, driving, and college applications. Before we know it, the kids will be leaving the nest and Clay and I will be in mid-40s entering a new phase of life. So we better make this one count.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

There are defining moments in a relationship that help foster an even deeper connection than before. These junctures are often heavy, damp, and impossible to fully comprehend unless you personally experience them. Some of ours include those horrible minutes leading up to the first deployment, me waking up from an emergency D&C to him crying by my side, and this morning when we laid on the floor of the vet office cradling our beloved dog as the sedative took effect.

Lucy
2005-2018

We said goodbye to Lucy this morning. Through our tears, we told her how much we loved her, how much joy she brought to our lives, and how we’ll eventually see her on the other side. We nuzzled against her head as we stroked her back in hopes to comfort her. She’ll always be our first baby –  we will miss her terribly.

Like a lot of military couples, Clay and I spent our engagement and first six months of marriage apart. But by the summer of 2005, we were living together in Fort Drum, New York and wanting to adopt a new member into our little family. From the moment we saw Lucy frolicking with her brothers and sisters, we knew we were meant to take her home.

During her puppy months, we’d run across the Madison Barracks parade field in Sackets Habor with Lucy nipping at our calves. She swam in Lake Ontario with the biggest grin and she’d accompany us on walks into town for coffee at Chrissy Beanz Bakery. That winter, we felt like the happiest family of three that ever did live. She was 7 months old when Clay deployed to Afghanistan.

It was just me and Lucy for the next 16 months. She’d lick my tears when I received bad news and she’d be waiting by the door wagging her tail when I’d return from a memorial service. She kept me company when I’d go weeks without word from Clay and slept next to me every single night because she knew I was scared. And when Clay returned home, we resumed our roles as the happiest family of three.

Over the years, she vacationed with us, moved with us, and saw us add more team members along the way. She sent Clay back to Afghanistan and whenever he’d walk through the door after yet another Army-induced separation, she’d run up to him with her whole body wagging with excitement. She loved our children and never showed jealousy when we brought them home. Her nightly checks included popping her head into their rooms to make sure that they were asleep and safe. And when I had my miscarriage, she laid next to me in bed with her head in my lap. For as much love as we showed her over the years – she gave us more.

Lucy managed to visit 30 states during her life. She absolute loved road trips to see our family – swimming in the Atlantic Ocean outside of Wilmington, North Carolina and being on the boat on Lake Lanier, Georgia. She seemed happiest when at the Great Lakes – she swam in both Lake Michigan and Lake Ontario countless times. And she broke through waves in the Gulf of Mexico and even hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail. 

December 17, 2018

We took one last family picture this morning. It will take time for us to adjust to life without Lucy and work through our grief. Lucy was always more than just a pet – she was a full-fledged family member. And she just happened to be the best damn dog that ever did live.