Here in Alaska it was still early morning. I was half asleep, sitting on the edge of the bed, watching on TV as an airplane full of my fellow human beings careened into the World Trade Center. My husband seemed to be miles away as he sped around the bedroom checking our deployment gear. I was in a daze. He counted out the socks, t-shirts and various parts of our Air Force uniforms: “One, two, three…” I turned away from the television and focused on him when he said, “This means we’re at war.”
And since Sept. 11, 2001, I have grappled with what those words mean to us, to our family and friends and our country. The calls to go to the Middle East came for many people we know. The call came for me, but I could no longer go. I had gotten pregnant in spring 2004. I was leaving the service and wondering what kind of world my first child was entering.
But I believe bearing children is the ultimate act of optimism. And in a post-9/11 world—a place that feels more muddled and uncertain than the one I remember growing up in—there was only one thing I was certain I needed to be doing: pouring myself into my children and making their world as stable and safe as possible. And it’s the best choice I’ve ever made.
My Air Force days are behind me now. When I left the service, my boss said I was being promoted from the rank of captain to mom. Funny how my toddler seems to think she outranks me.
Although I’m sure I’ll wear other titles in the workforce someday, I believe that my greatest challenge in life will be to grow my two little girls into strong women and conscientious citizens, able to determine for themselves what today’s battles require of them. And if I’m able to do this, it will be my greatest accomplishment.
I’ve learned that my most useful tool—as a parent and a person—is a sense of humor. When my 20-month-old locked me out of her room, requiring me to remove the doorknob, I was irked. When a month later she locked me onto the balcony in winter, I was more than irked and a bit worried. But I maintained composure by reminding myself that these stories would be great ammunition when she introduces my husband and me to her prom date.
I believe that the years I’m spending as a full-time caregiver for my children are helping me to become the person I need to be for them, as well as for the rest of my life. All parents, whether they work at home, in an office or perhaps even in a military facility far from home, ask themselves this: How do I adapt to a post-9/11 world? I found my answer when I asked myself what my children needed most.
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