Thursday, February 21, 2013

Military Promotions and My Husband's Emotions

My dear husband has been eagerly anticipating his next promotion since "The List" with his name on it came out last month.  He's been waiting a really long time for this promotion--because he began his military career in one job and then transferred over to the JAG Corps after he graduated from law school, his promotion got delayed a bit when compared to folks who have been in the military as long as he has.  The delay has nothing to do with Dan's performance--he is incredibly good at what he does, and very deserving of a promotion!  The military promotion system is a complicated beast, so it was just a matter of waiting it out until it was his turn...and now, that time is upon us.  Since The List was published, we have been waiting anxiously (or, more accurately, Dan has been anxious...I'm of the mind that these things happen when they happen--no sense in getting all worked up, especially when we're waiting on the whim of the military!) for his promotion date to be announced--The List simply stated that he was now eligible for promotion, but his actual promotion does not occur until the date they give him.  He was finally given his date yesterday, and that set the wheels in motion for planning a promotion ceremony/party/reception with relatively short notice.

it's about time!

Dan's last promotion was when he was in law school, and it was relatively low-key, but very special.  His brother had just completed military boot camp, and was due to graduate and be enlisted around the same time as Dan's promotion date, so we all trekked to the boot camp graduation and rolled the promotion and enlistment into one big family party--Dan's parents, us, and both his brothers were there, and we had cake.  It was nice, and I have fond memories of it--Dan's dad arranged to have a friend "host" the party on the military installation where we were, and there was a cake in both Dan and his brother's honor.  We had no kids, and everything was easy--Dan was flexible about everything (including the date), and was very relaxed about the process.  That is my only experience with a promotion as a military spouse.  My father was also a career military officer, but when I was growing up, I only attended one of his promotion ceremonies--because it occurred in the summer, when I was free from school obligations.  My mom didn't even attend all of my dad's ceremonies, because they weren't a big thing in my dad's branch of service.  I have discovered today that my husband's branch of service is a bit more demanding--or at least my husband believes it to be...

Let me give a little background by saying that Dan's dad was also career military, and Dan's parents' home proudly displays pictures of Dan and his brothers standing with their mom and dad at various ceremonies celebrating his dad's accomplishments.  That is the experience Dan had growing up--even though we both come from military families, our experiences in those families were different.  Dan and I discussed his promotion ceremony specifics last night at dinner, and agreed that since it was during a school day and the boys are a bit young, I would attend the ceremony with him and his parents, and my mom would watch the boys while Abby is in school.  Dan and I both feel very strongly that school should always come first--we want to put a priority on our children's education, and skipping school for any reason (barring illness) is not allowed, even at such a young age.  I would make an exception for a deployment homecoming ceremony (seeing your parent for the first time after a year-long separation is kind of a big deal)...but that's about it.  Thankfully, we don't have to consider missing school because of anything related to deployments right now, and I'm extremely grateful for that.  It was barely a discussion last night about the plan because we both agreed on all points, and I called my mom this morning to set up babysitting duties on the day of Dan's promotion.  Everything was moving forward, until this afternoon...

Dan came home for lunch and informed me that he wanted me to compromise about something, and I wasn't going to like it (always a good way to start a conversation, FYI).  He wants the kids to attend his promotion ceremony.  Ideally, I also want the kids to attend his promotion ceremony--but based on all the factors we had discussed and agreed upon last night, it wasn't going to happen.  His ceremony has now been planned for naptime for the boys, which is a big disaster waiting to happen--although Jake is outgrowing his naps, Alex certainly is not...and you don't want to see either of those boys cranky after you've woken them up.  Abby will be at school.  Dan has been getting pressure all day from "everyone" (whoever they are) to allow the kids to come to the ceremony--because "that's what people do," apparently.  I firmly believe that what is right for some families is not right for others, and I'm not entirely sure why what other people think we should be doing should influence what we actually do.  The conversation did not go well, to the point where I didn't even feel like going to his ceremony!  Of course I will be there--I'm so proud of him and want to be there to support him, but I felt very frustrated revisiting a topic we had already resolved and on which we easily agreed before other people interjected their opinions.  Dan felt I was being unreasonable, I felt he was bowing to peer pressure when it's not right for our family at this time.  I also have other considerations that I don't even think cross his mind--if the kids are going to come with us to the ceremony, I will not get to enjoy the ceremony.  I will be trying not to let the kids run wild and embarrass Dan (he does not handle it well when they are not perfect little angels in front of important people--and inevitably, they are not perfect little angels), I will be stressed about waking Alex up from his nap and getting us all there in time, I have to figure out what everyone is going to wear (just getting myself dressed up is a miserable process), and I will have to pick Abby up from school at some point as well.  All of that instead of just getting to show up and enjoy my husband's successes with him.  I may even have to walk out of the ceremony and not get to see him get promoted if the kids are acting up.  Dan says he doesn't want this experience to be stressful--perhaps he doesn't understand the meaning of stressful, since he's not the one who will have to be dealing with all of those moving parts!

I think I'm feeling a little sore about the whole promotion subject as well, because I've been talking for months about the fact that I will make him a cake for his promotion (I even wrote it on my blog a while back!), and when we were discussing the particulars last night, Dan said he doesn't want me to make a cake--because "this is a work function for a lot of people, not just a little family thing."  Ouch.  I guess my cakes wouldn't be good enough for a lot of people to see, and our families have just been pitying me when they say they are nice?  He was trying to make a point about how the cake would have to feed a lot of people, but it didn't feel that way.  He said he wanted to just call the grocery store, tell them how many people to feed and what to write on the cake, and be done with it.  That hurt my feelings, since I've been seeing all kinds of cakes that wives have made for their husbands' promotion ceremonies on my Facebook feed for years, just waiting for my turn.  I can make a cake that will feed 40 people.  That huge castle cake and that Bucky pirate ship cake could have fed 40 people, even though I just made them for family.

this is cheesy, but I kind of want one!

I didn't expect this promotion to become such an emotional battleground--I didn't anticipate Dan's emotional investment in what his day should look like, as maybe I should have.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again--I'm not a great military wife.  In the end, I want my husband's special day to look exactly as he envisioned, even if it won't look anything like I envisioned (or maybe it will--I just might not get to see it because I've had to leave with a screaming, tired 2-year-old).  I want him to be happy and get everything he wants--kids at his ceremony, crappy sheet cake from a grocery store, supportive military wife by his side...  I don't agree with the decisions, but I'm going to let him make them and just figure out how to make the best of it--a lesson that pretty much applies to my whole life as a military spouse.

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