When you’re away from your family for months, free time is the enemy. This probably sounds counter-intuitive. I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there that would like nothing more than a day where they could just relax and do anything they wanted. While that has a certain appeal at first, it gets old really quickly.
One of the reasons that deployments tend to be easier on me than my family is that I am kept incredibly busy underway. I normally work 16-20 hour days, 7 days a week. If that sounds like an exaggeration, just grab the closest sailor, and they’ll confirm it. While the days are incredibly long, the weeks and months tend to fly by. You’ll be sitting down for lunch and say something like, “Hey. Did anybody else realize that it’s October?” You just keep moving, and before you know it, you’re home.
The first four months or so here were much like that. School was tough, and there was a ton of work and studying to do. I was at the schoolhouse nearly every evening and most weekends. Time was moving because I never sat still long enough to realize it.
Now, however, the curriculum is winding down, and I find myself with free evenings and weekends. I enter these times full of optimism about how much I’ll be able to relax and enjoy some downtime. I wake up in the morning, make a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal. While I’m eating breakfast, I’ll plan out my day. I’ll tell myself that I’m going to go back to bed and read a book. Maybe after that, I’ll play some video games or sit out in the sun for a couple hours. It’s basically every parents’ dream day.
Today is a good example. After breakfast, I went back to bed and picked up my current book, Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. After about 6 pages, I started to get antsy. This is usually about the time the kids realize I’m trying to read and ambush me. Then, I start thinking about my family and how close I am to seeing them again. The book, which is excellent, lost its appeal, so I turned on the PlayStation to zone out there. That lasted for about 20 minutes before I lost interest, so I picked up my phone to check Facebook for the 36th time since I woke up. Then, I looked through my movie case which contains at least 150 movies that I enjoyed enough to buy, but none of them piqued my interested.
This cycles continues for most of the day until I end up standing in one spot trying to figure out what to do. Eventually, I just start the process over with the book and hope that I can keep my mind occupied. I just can’t concentrate on anything for more than about 30 minutes before I start to miss the family again. The combination of expecting the wife and kids to interrupt me and realizing how slowly time is going by leaves me constantly on edge.
Like I said, I’m sure every parent out there, including my wife, would do almost anything for a lazy day with no responsibilities. I certainly don’t expect any sympathy, but at least writing this post has gotten me 45 minutes closer to bed.