When your firefighter comes to you after a 48-hour shift followed by a four-day out-of-state class and another 48-hour shift and says, "I want to go back to college and finish my degree," the correct response is:
a) Blind panic that makes you so dizzy that you nearly faint in the dinner you're fixing
b) A smile and a stifled squeak of anxiety over the extra burden of time this will impose
c) Encouraging words and a promise of support throughout the entire process
d) A reverse question of, "What? Now? Why now?"
I'd have to say, I experienced all four of those responses when my firefighter came to me with this very request last month. Even though I wholeheartedly support his efforts to continue his education and advance in the fire service, I admit, I have had some moments of selfish panic since he first seriously brought up this subject.
We have lightly tossed around the idea of him finishing college before, but we never moved beyond just talking about it. When he pinned me down with the direct request this time though, it was a serious subject. It was no longer a fantasy of "one day" proportions. I knew right away that he had already set his heart and mind to finishing college. I figured it could go one of two ways. Either we could jump into this venture together and try to make the best of time pinches and financial constraints so things go well. Or, I could resist and sling snide comments, pity myself for the extra work load, and berate him for having ambitions more grand than our current situation. This path, of course, would be a crash course for failure in college, in our relationship, and in his career. Lucky for him, I chose the first path.
With Week 1 of college complete and Week 2 well underway, I know I made the best choice in supporting him without complaint. Sure, it is time-consuming. I realize, too, that most of the extra study time will come out of our already minimal time together, rather than work time or time with the kids. But I ask myself, what sort of wife would I be if I could not overcome selfishness to see that he needs support from me most of all? The support of his chief, his department, and his guys, all means a lot to him. Honestly, he wouldn't have such a strong desire to better himself, if it weren't for the support of these people in his life. But who is the one person who can truly make or break his education and career goals? I am. I wield that power, but I choose not to abuse it. When he needs my support, I will support him. When he needs to study, I will make our home a comfortable place to focus; at least as well as I can with three busy, homeschooled girls. When he needs to push through his fatigue and finish a test or class post, I will brew him some coffee and have a cup with him. At last, when he is finished for the weekend or with his degree, I will be there then too, to enjoy our time together and to celebrate his success.
In our marriage, this means that his efforts are our efforts together. Just like I support him, he always supports me and makes my endeavors a priority in his life. In a few years, at the end of his college career we can hang his diploma next to mine on our wall. Then we can both look back and know that his years of accomplishments and my years of accomplishments are actually our accomplishments: ours, together.
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