Preparing myself as today, my girlfriend Kitty Kamikaze, one of the founders of Rat City Rollergirls, will be skating her last bout after eight years of playing with Derby Liberation Front.
Return and reunion after a long-term roller derby deployment can be a time of tremendous happiness and relief. But the transition back to family life can also bring its share of challenges. Fortunately there are steps that both returning roller girls and their partners can take to make the return to family life as joyful and stress-free as possible.
Understanding the ups and downs of reunion
Couples who have been separated by roller derby often look forward to a roller girl’s return as a time of happiness, a chance to get back to “normal” life. Children look forward to having a missing parent back at home. The active roller girl looks forward to a joyful reunion and the comforts of home. After a dangerous sport, families are relieved that the player is returning home safely. Perfectly normal feelings; But mixed in with those feelings of excitement and anticipation are also some perfectly normal worries and resentments. Husbands and wives may worry that their spouse has changed – that there will be new strains in the relationship. They may fear giving up the independence that being apart has allowed them. Or they may resent what they imagine as the freedom the other has enjoyed during the derby season. While everyone in the family looks forward happily to getting back together, they may also feel some anger at having been separated in the first place – a feeling that children and partners sometimes express very openly.
Reunions can be especially challenging if there are feelings of jealousy or rumors of infidelity. Initial reunions are often very happy. But because expectations on all sides are so high, they can also be stressful. This is because there can often be a “mismatch” between everyone’s high expectations and the reality of family life.
Before the reunion
Despite the best of intentions, the returning roller girl or the spouse at home may be too exhausted, busy, or anxious to prepare the way they would like to for the reunion. Combined with high expectations for the reunion, this can here are some steps that each of you can take to keep expectations reasonable and the reunion more relaxing:
- Do your best to find out and communicate the details of the return plan – and to keep yourself and your spouse updated on any changes to the schedule.
- Plan something special for each other – The retired skater might bring gifts for those at home. The spouse at home might plan a simple welcome-back meal.
- Be ready to be understanding – and forgiving if the reality of the reunion doesn’t match your plans and hopes.
- The day of the reunion – Be prepared for exhaustion, bruises, injuries, and unpredictability and changes in the return schedule. Be prepared, too, for reactions to the return that aren’t what either or both of you may have expected. The partner at home may have planned a joyful welcome, for example, with banners, gifts, or favorite foods, only to find the skater too exhausted to notice. Babies and young children may pull away from or cry at the returning parent’s efforts to hold and hug them. (It takes time for young children to get to know a parent again after a long season.)
What the skater who’s retiring can do:
- Make a conscious effort to make only positive comments – about any changes you notice when you get home. This is extremely important – you want your family to be glad to have you home. Try to keep this up for at least the first two days.
- Look for positive changes – such as how your children have grown and matured, new skills they have learned, or household improvements your partner has managed. Tell family members that you are proud of them.
- Show your appreciation for the extra work your partner has taken on - while you were away, handling all of the household responsibilities alone. Don’t criticize the ways they are handling these added tasks, even if it’s very different from how you would do it. Many returning skaters feel a little hurt at finding out how well their families have managed without them. Do your best to express this instead as pride in how they’ve stepped up to new responsibilities.
- Expect that your children might not welcome you back immediately with smiles and hugs – Very young children may see you as a stranger at first and be shy or even scared of you. This is nothing personal, it’s just the way children are. Be patient as they take the time to get to know you and accept you as a parent again. Older children may be angry at you for being away so long, at least at first. Teenagers may hold back as a way to try on new independence. Try to remember that these are all natural responses for children at different ages.
Tips for home life
- Make time for your family – Hold off on visits to relatives and limit time with friends until you’ve settled into a comfortable routine at home.
- Take time to talk with your spouse – After a long absence, you need to get to know each other again. You’ve both had new experiences that may have changed your priorities and your ideas about roles in the relationship and the family. Talking now can help you lay the foundation for a newly strengthened relationship.
- Take time to understand how the family has changed while you’ve been gone – Don’t charge in with your own way of getting things done. Notice how your partner is dealing with your children’s discipline, for example, and restrain yourself from taking over with a tougher or looser approach.
All these exciting plans and daydreams of special moments together for when the roller girl returns home may also just result in their wanting to only sleep in and have sex.
This was a play on military deployment. See the actual sources: