When we heard about his upcoming deployment, it seemed far away. We felt like we had time.
We began planning. My most optimistic self hoped we could get all of the dirty work of pre-deployment out of the way: things like a Power of Attorney, buying winter tires, updating credit card accounts, adjusting car insurance, etc. We would get these things done quickly, so that we could enjoy our family in the last few weeks.
But we had so much time!
We planned a family vacation for the summer filled with plenty of time at the beach, sandy sandwiches, and music blasting in the car. Our family explored the outdoors of our new duty station. We went to track practice; we made the kids have too much fun and paid for it the next day; we enjoyed our long summer together as a family.
I still had our list of things we needed to get done before deployment … and was making slow progress.
But we had so much time!
Then all of a sudden, that long summer ended. Days and weeks flew by. We wondered where all the time had gone and how we would get everything done. And then it was just a few weeks from deployment.
And we were running out of time.
The weeks before a deployment are hard. You want everyone to get along and everything to be easy. But that, my friends, is a pipe dream.
The reality is:
- You’ll get a ship out date. Then it will shift. Then it will shift again. Lather, rinse repeat.
- You will still frustrate each other even though you know you are going to be apart a long time.
- There are lists. Multiple lists. And the lists will multiply.
- You will have to make big decisions. It’s really unappealing to go back over your wills and decide who gets your kids. What kind of dinner are you supposed to have after that meeting?!
- Life doesn’t pause. People at the grocery store don’t know or care about your upcoming situation. You don’t really want to tell them either.
- Small children don’t really understand what it means for Daddy to go to a war zone. Which is good but hard to explain. You don’t want to scare them but also want them to know that this isn’t like a short TDY or a few weeks of training.
- People still have to eat. Multiple times a day. Especially those kids you made.
- So much gear is coming into your house! You now have a deployment gear corner! Lucky you.
- You want to enjoy every moment, and you will try. But the stress of all these worries, lists, and questions worms its way into your brain. You eat, sleep, and breathe deployment with your spouse and your family.
We were running out of time.
We were trying to cram in all these necessary things while still spending time as a couple and as a family. Dinner involved a lot of leftovers and takeout. I had selectively neglected many things that have now been put on a list for after he leaves. I basically tried to Marie Kondo our schedule; we were doing our best to leave out the things that didn’t spark joy, or at least put them off for a while. We found someone to watch our kids overnight so we could get away and celebrate our anniversary early. We prioritized time and committed to putting down our phones (why is this so hard!).
And yet, I can admit that my husband and I were stressed out about different things. For him, it was about leaving and everything that comes with that; for myself, it was about staying behind and everything that comes with that. Both of our perspectives were valid. But no amount of stress or worry is worth losing time. We were open with each other and made our best efforts to communicate expectations.
We would survive pre-deployment and the deployment itself, we told ourselves. And it helped if one of us brought home pizza for dinner, too.
The weeks before a deployment are hard, and the time seems to pass before one knows it.
Being a military family is really hard sometimes, and deployments are even harder. The best planning doesn’t mean it will be easier. It’s normal to be anxious and stressed.
And, again, there is never enough time.
From over a decade in the military, our family still doesn’t have it all figured out. There is no solid plan or guideline to deployment and the time before it. But you can always count on some tear-stained goodbyes, Murphy’s Law moments, and challenging times. For now, our kids will hug their Daddy Dolls and remember the fun we had over the summer and during our last few weeks before deployment. And hopefully, our deployment time will also pass before we know it.