Parental Homecoming and the Precious Schedule
Ever since having my third child, I've discarded my woozy free spirit self when it comes to bedtimes and mealtimes. I've cultivated, with great struggle and with mostly fabulous success (when I get it right), a predictable day in which waking up, breakfast, lunch, dinner and bed time come at more or less the same time each day. If I get it wrong -- don't put the three-year-old to sleep within an hour of his regular time, let the eight-year-old skip breakfast in favor of a big brunch -- the melt downs are spectacular.
Last weekend, I went to a conference in Montana -- a fantastic opportunity for which I was making enough money to pay for a new bicycle I'd been dreaming of. I was only going to be gone for two nights and my childless sister-in-law generously offered to spend the weekend with my three balls of energy. They had a great time; but I neglected to remind her that my boys will not fall asleep as long as you let them have a screen in front of their faces. There was a prodigious amount of sugar and schedule-zonking shenanigans. Monday was not fun for me, at all; it wasn't until late Tuesday after a rigorous regimen of whole grains and early bedtimes that I felt I had my kids back.
So: we were surprised Wednesday to find out that my husband would be returning from his year's tour of duty in Kuwait after 364 days, on Thursday night -- very, very late Thursday night. After a little deliberation, I decided to let his friend pick him up from the airport, and keep the boys at home, letting the oldest stay up until Daddy got home.
Monroe, the youngest, had a hard day and fell asleep at 8:30; Truman tried to stay up but fell asleep around 11 (I gave him the day off kindergarten today). Everett was awake until at least 2 a.m. They were all up at their regular time, today: 7:30, or thereabouts. I'm bracing myself for the fallout.
Obviously my situation is a bit unusual; it's not everyday mama or papa comes home from a year in the Middle East. But, when you've had a parental homecoming after much time away, even a week or two, that could really destroy your schedule -- and make the inevitably stressful re-entry even more stressful and potentially cripple your family's integration in the coming days or weeks -- how do you manage it? Do you think ahead and schedule flights that will come home during waking hours (not a choice for Army Reservists)? Do you do a big homecoming in the airport (/train station/driveway), or do you get the absent parent home solo and re-unite calmly? Do you preserve the bits of your life you can control to get ready for the chaos, or do you embrace it wholeheartedly?