Typically, there were no signs on where to go, no signals to reach our spouses via phone and no one in charge who knew anything about the specifics of said orientation. We spouses+children formed quite a crowd and followed each other around until we found the room. Then we sat there for 40 minutes.
Finally, a take charge kinda gal went searching for someone. She came back to report, "They forgot about us." Luckily, all thousand of our children were behaving perfectly(ha!). At least we all had a chance to evaluate each others parenting skills and form loose bonds anyways.
The take charge gal was very nice. She had two perfectly well mannered boys. Clean, quiet-ish, obedient. She, being the well prepared mother, pulled out coloring pages for my children. Games. Crayons.
As the Commandant of the school finally came to chat with us, the collective group of kids were comfortable, but not eager to sit still and listen. Luckily, the formalities had worn off by then. Personalities were shining through. Friendships were forming. It really felt like a chaotic episode of Army Wives.
At one point of the speech, the prepared mother turned to shush her obedient little boy and he roared back, "SHUT UP!" Oh snap. It echoed. She had to save face in front of the roomful of parents. As I chuckled under my breath, feeling all proud of my obedient children, I see out of the corner of my eye...crayons markings.
Titus took her grease pencil of a black crayon, peeled it all over the floor and covered the table. COVERED in crayon marks. Then he turned his little cherub face to me. It, too, was covered. He looked like he was headed to a football game. I did the mom blink <blink blink> and discreetly reached into my bag for a spare sock to scrub the table.
As all of this was going on, a group of students(& their spouses) heading to the clinical portion talked with us. They stated the obvious, confirmed our suspicions. This "three year deployment" chatter is starting to set in. To put it in perspective, they're covering a year of school in the first ten weeks. The summer semester was described as a "whore" by one of the professors. The bad part is that while the summer semester is a HUGE workload, it only gets worse.
After the encouraging orientation, we took a hike out to a big, beautiful(albeit, completely saturated with mud) field where the outbound class put on one heck of a picnic for the incoming families. It was a great chance to continue conversations and ask lots of questions and get to know the spouses of Sean's classmates. There are so many kids. SO MANY. Out of the 21 in Sean's anesthesia program, only four don't have kids. From what I could gather, the average was three kids per family. Some had more, one or two had less. Either way, we adults were seriously outnumbered & there were a whole lotta baby bumps in the crowd.
The class is made up of four different programs, consisting of students from the Air Force, Army and Navy:
Family Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Prac
Perioperative Clinical Nurse Specialist
I think Sean said the whole class is only 61 people. The anesthesia program has 21, only 7 are Air Force(1 is Public Health, 13 are Navy). I guess they all take some classes together, some separately pertaining to their specialty. I'm still confused about a lot of it, but figure it will all come out in the wash. For example, how much do they co-mingle as a whole? Do the anesthesia people just stick to their core of people?
It looks like we're all kind of on our own. Three other families and my and the boys shut the picnic down. We stayed after everyone else had left and chatted it up. Amongst us, there were eight kids that all played beautifully together. I can see a core support group in there somewhere and I can't wait to look back on this a year from now. I hope I look back with fondness. With the sense of a job well done. I hope I see the success of a Sean's fantastic grades. A stronger bond within our family. Friendships that will last a lifetime. I hope I can say ,with all honesty, that I supported my husband 100%.
They(spouses and students) said the first year was hard. Harder than deployments. Harder than separations. Harder than anything they've ever done. That said, the people telling us that haven't begun the clinical portion. :)
We're ready. We've been ready for a long, long time.