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Parental Homecoming and the Precious Schedule

UM_jonathan_frontporch
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?

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The longest my spouse has been away has been two weeks. For us, my kids were anxiously awaiting his arrival and wanted to greet him at the airport. I know when I return from travel, my kids stay up as long as possible in hopes to see me before they drift off to sleep. Their bed-time routine is disrupted because of the anticipation.

I think no matter what, you will have to deal with re-entry and whatever system you have going now will be disrupted. You can ask your boys what they would prefer. Nothing beats coming home and seeing your loved ones waiting for you at the airport though! It makes the homecoming much more sweeter.

I'm just glad he's home. Been thinking about y'all on and off since I saw him on the Holiday greetings section on Newschannel 8 last Christmas.

Nothing useful to add for the thread, though. I never really kept a schedule til middle school for mione.

Congratulations on his safe return. Sorry for the potential hijack, but the biggest thought I have after reading this is: What kind of bicycle are you thinking of getting?!

I think in this case, if (and I realize it's a big if) I knew that the absent parent (or exciting visitor) was getting in very late, I wouldn't tell the kids that it would be an evening or a nighttime arrival. Instead I'd tell them he'd be there in the morning when they woke up. Undoubtedly the excitement would make it hard to fall asleep and they'd wake up a little late, but at least then you're on a closer-to-normal schedule.

Now I know that an 8 year old is old enough to make the jump and realize that if dad's going to be there in the morning, that means he's actually going to arrive sometime during the night. But I think framing it as "Dad will be here when you wake up" is still helpful.

And I bet even if they stayed up late last night, as long as they woke up close to normal this morning, you can put them to bet close to normal tonight and the disruption is limited to only a day's fallout.

But you know what? The more I write this comment, the more I realize "Holy Cow, their dad is coming home after being gone for months and months and months!" How fabulous for all of you in spite of the tough adjustments.

I used to travel for about 48 hours (2 nights) every three weeks when my kid was 2. I always took home a flight that put me at home at bedtime. I chose that one because even though it wrecked the bedtime, the other options wrecked the next morning routine even more. We always planned for the next day to be a crazy (and grumpy) day of transition. The following day was schedule as usual.

If I were in your position (and oh how exciting it is!) I probably would have told everyone he would be there in the morning and let it be known that everyone was staying home for a special family day and lived it up. Then the following day, everyone back to their usual schedule because it protects sleep and thus emotions - both you will very much need in this family life transition.

My congrats to you on hubby home and managing without him. Military is tough. I did everything to preserve my kids sleep schedule. It was the key to our happiness. We hardly ever stayed out late as it absolutely and 100% predictably ruined the next day and a half if the kids lost sleep.
I agree with above comment. Tell kids he'd be home in the morning to keep everyone happy and on schedule.

What great news. Let the future hold joy and peace and the sanity of routine. But that one day - that one day is exceptional, and you were right to let the routines go.

Congratulations! We've had plenty of routine changes that effect us for a day or two. As long as it's planned out, we all get back to normal in no time.

Having your partner away for a year, however, is a totally different thing. Good luck to you all as you transition to life as a fivesome again. I imagine that It'll be quite an adjustment for all of you...but it's a joyous occasion!! Good luck through the process!

My husband had a period of time when he was travelling for work. Shorter trips, certainly, but gone for a few days to a week at a time. He typically would return after bedtime, and I appreciated it because it was easier to keep to our routine. I often work graveyard so the kids are used to the idea that things happen in our house even when they're asleep, so I don't think it was difficult for them to understand dad is coming home while you're sleeping. In your situation though, it's a whole different scenario. I'm glad you all have gotten to this point and hope re-entry goes as well as possible.

Congrats on his safe return! That said, we just don't keep all THAT rigid a schedule around these parts. For vacation time and (sometimes) financial reasons, my husband has several times visited my mother-in-law alone---as well I previously traveled occasionally for work.

In each case it all depended on the lateness, etc--but again, I'm much more a just roll with it type. Especially since flights aren't even always on time, anyway.

For career, dare not say what improvement.Because have been jobs, and although some of his about go hard, but not really is successful, recently came to a new company, is very hard, I went for business, and then give me the opportunity to learn, also let I good effort.

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