As military spouses have to frequently join new communities, find new roles and new friends, InDependent is going to spend this January exploring the following questions: how do you find your “story” within yourself, and how do you share your story with others?
During his 2021 Summit interview, Larry Rosen took Corie Weathers through an exercise to tell a story from her life. Please follow this process and share a story with us!
First, pick an event from your life. It can be the moment you reached a goal, the moment you found out some news, something surprising, something happy, something sad, something scary…anything! Just make it a specific moment.
Next, fill out the setting, the scene around you, thinking about your five senses. Write down as many details as you can remember!
Then, fill out the people around you in the story. Write details about their personality, relationship with you, what they were doing, what your interactions were with them.
Lastly, put it all together and answer the following questions. How did that moment shape you today? What was your perspective shift?
The following is my story using the prompts from this exercise:
EVENT FROM LIFE: A JOINT BIRTHDAY PARTY WHEN OUR BOYS TURNED TWO AND THREE
Setting: At the “inside park” of the Eielson city center in the dark, frozen winter of Arctic Alaska. We held an old-school birthday party with pizza, juice boxes, store-bought cupcakes, and a park. We were starting to learn our parenting style, and it turns out it didn’t involve Pinterest perfect parties. We were more of the “keep it simple, make sure the kids have fun, and let go of the perfection” type of parents.
People: Our Alaska family—the friends we’d built community with during our remote OCONUS assignment near the Arctic Circle of Alaska. We had a dozen preschool and toddler-aged children running free, screaming in joy in a safe zone while the parents were able to carry on adult conversations with one another. We were finally feeling like normal parents, not parents who were drowning with two babies, or a military family surviving a deployment, or a couple tackling reintegration along with an overseas move with babies. Our newly turned three-year-old was mostly potty trained, and our almost two-year-old had just weaned from nursing. I’d spent three and a half years straight either pregnant, nursing, or both. We finally felt normal, stable, and safe.
HOW DID THIS MOMENT SHAPE US TODAY?
During this party, many parts of our lives had finally normalized. We were no longer finding our footing with back-to-back unplanned pregnancies. We were no longer figuring out how to survive infants. We had arrived to toddlerhood and just a little bit of independence from the neediness of babies. We had friends and peers in the same season of parenting for the first time in our lives. We were in a stable location, together, and learning to fully embrace this season of our lives. Even as two previously stressful events unfolded at the party, we were able to find the humor and the calm in the moment.
With about thirty minutes left to the end of the birthday party, our three-year-old was running by with a telltale bump in his trousers and an accompanying smell. He’d been too busy playing to ask for a potty break, and we’d been too busy enjoying grown-up conversation to keep track of who took him potty or when. Hooray for Dad to the rescue! We didn’t have extra clothes for him with us, we were sure we were finally out of that phase. As my husband returned, he briefed me on his clean-up approach—he cleaned up the kid and threw the underwear away. His reasoning was that the party was nearly over, and then we’d be heading home for bedtimes, so our toddler can just go commando under his pants for thirty minutes. I was mind-blown—he just threw them away?? How was that an option?? Brilliant! I was so thankful for him.
Fifteen minutes left in the party. Commando kiddo runs by and I roll my eyes at my husband. Next comes our almost-two-year-old, zooming after his brother, toddler belly leading the way, chubby legs moving as fast as he can, with his dimpled smile lighting up his whole face. Then, as he rounds the corner we see it—the evidence. His light khaki pants have a telling dark line that perfectly outlines his diaper. We have a full blowout. I race after his squealing sounds to scoop him up, my husband hands me wipes and a new diaper as he says “you’re it.” Oh the joys of this season of parenthood. I laugh, and gag, as I clean up our impatiently joyful toddler, then I decide to follow my husband’s lead—I threw away his pants! Threw them away! I mean, they were getting tight anyway, and we aren’t sure about having more children so I decided not to clean up the blowout, and instead, throw away the six-dollar Target pants. I felt like a new woman. I strode back into the party, proud of my decision with my head held high. The commando kid came around the corner, and his now pants-less brother took off after him.
This was a birthday party to remember. I remember the feeling of acceptance, of belonging with my fellow parents. I remember being able to enjoy my children instead of constantly tending to them. I remember the joy on my children’s faces. I remember the freeing feeling of letting poop-covered clothes go into the trash. I remember how quickly my boys fell asleep that night with happy hearts and bellies full of pizza and cupcakes.
That’s not all I remember. That night, while absorbing the news of a short-notice deployment, we calculated the dates and reviewed our year ahead. We were finally stable, finally reintegrated, finally finding a rhythm that worked for our little family. After having two kids poop their pants and finally feeling like we could find humor in our parenting, finally leaving the baby stage but then there it was. A little plastic stick with two pink lines. Just when we thought we’d found stability, things changed again and we were expecting a rule-breaker, always at full speed, fearless little sister.
That pattern of fleeting stability has continued for a military family with three children. Along the way we’ve learned that sometimes you just have to laugh at the poop, throw away the pants, and soak in as many smiles and squeals of joy at the moment as you can because you never know what comes next.