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Family troubles do not just stop when we stop being a part of their daily lives. We shouldn’t feel guilty or forced to help … but sometimes … we do. Milspouse guilt is a real and powerful emotion.
Family troubles do not just stop when we stop being a part of their daily lives.
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MilSpouse Guilt is a POWERFUL Emotion!
Experience – After years apart from your family and when faced with stark reality of their situation, you may feel the need to be a superhero and save them. You may have MilSpouse Guilt!
When Jim and I had been married for thirteen years and had two kids, we moved from California to Alabama for him to attend school for a year. After that, we would be going somewhere else for a “joint” tour. This joint requirement opened up the orders options to all American bases -not just Navy – around the globe. After that year, we had no idea of where orders would take us. For a year, Jim was home with us as a student. We were a happy as a Family while mourning our leaving home for the past nine years.
Orders Took Us Closer to Our Extended Families
Alabama is not that great a distance from Florida or North Carolina and we spent time with both sides of our families. Things became very clear that things with our Florida family had changed but not really improved. We had known the major points of their story but sometimes the details are different when you actually see and experience it first hand.
The youngest sister in law, the one who had never lived with us, had run away from home after moving to Kentucky to live with her father. For about a year, the family had not known where she was. Then, Ann showed up at my mother in law’s door pregnant late in 2000. Her son was born three weeks after ours the following summer.
The boys were now 3 yrs old and led very different lives. Our son, Clay, had a loving 10 yr old big sister with a stay at home mom and military officer father who tried to live at home. Our nephew, Cameron, was born to a single uneducated mother who was living with her mother. My youngest sister in law, Ann, started to get her act together finding a job and qualifying for low income housing. She moved out with Cameron. The family was hopeful that she had finally found her path for both herself and her son.
Unexpected Family Addition Prior to Moving to Germany
As we were moving out of our Alabama house and our furniture was being shipped to our next duty station in Germany, we went on a “Grandparent Tour.”
First, we went to Florida to visit my mother in law and our family there with a Disney detour planned for our family. We were greeted with some very unhappy news. Cameron had been sent to the hospital to have his head sewn back together after he was hit with a lamp at Ann’s hands. What? Perhaps the rest of our Florida family was too busy or in deep disbelief to see things clearly. Odd things happen when you have kids and they get hurt.
As “outsiders” we immediately saw that this was not the first time something had happened to Cameron at Ann’s hands. Developmentally, he had regressed and he had been way behind our son already. Truthfully we had noticed it when they had visited us in Alabama but chalked it up to road trips and excitement of seeing cousins. Our Florida family needed a break, cue the Superman music …. we offered to take Cameron with us to North Carolina for a month to let everyone catch their breath.
Over the next month with Cameron with our family, we learned that so many more things had been happening to him. He had been beaten with a cordless phone and tv remote. He ate like he had never seen food. Our hearts were breaking and we knew we had to help this child. Jim is the only married sibling with a family. The others were all young and still starting out. My mother in law was working full time still. We seemed like the family’s answer to helping Cameron.
Cue the Ominous Music … Something Drastic About to Happen
Cue the milspouse guilt! Could we have done something to prevent this? What if’s ring through our heads and our hearts.
Could we have done something to prevent this? What if's ring through our heads and our hearts.
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Jim and I offered to take Cameron to Germany with us. Jim started investigating and found it would be best if we adopted him. That way he could live in Army housing and not have the threat of having to return him to his mother within 24 hours as would be dictated if we didn’t adopt him.
An emergency family adoption was begun, Jim left for Germany. I drove the kids and I back and forth 8 hours each way to get the adoption underway and to begin processing Cameron’s passport. Somehow, his passport left New Orleans as Katrina made landfall. When we received his passport, the kids and I headed to join Jim in Germany.
We packed out of AL with 2 kids and landed in Germany with 3 kids without giving birth.
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We thought things would settle down once we got established there together as a family. We were wrong!
Holy Moly MilSpouse!
We learned that Cameron’s abuse had begun prior to his birth. We started on a whole new trek involving many tests, doctors and specialists to identify the source of his challenges and how we could help him. Cameron was cocaine and alcohol impacted in utero. Next, we implemented every intervention we possibly could to help open his future horizons. However … that is another post.
Lessons Learned –
We don’t know what our far flung family members do not want to tell us until you see it with your own eyes.
Family troubles do not just stop when we stop being a part of their daily lives. We shouldn’t feel guilty or forced to help … but sometimes … we do.
Sometimes life does not give you what you want or deserve … and you adopt a troubled child.
BEST MilSpouse Lesson Learned
Milspouse guilt is a strong and powerful emotion. Learn to know when yours is leading your thoughts and actions. Stop. Step back. Take a breath and realistically evaluate the situation.
Questions to ask yourself & your spouse –
Are your relatives using your absence from their daily lives as an excuse or emotional weapon?
Are you trying to save this loved one from the consequences of their own actions? Would that be best both short or long term?
Are you really the only ones who have the power to help in this situation?