In which Ariel shares what areas she focuses on when planning for a deployment - how to nurture your child's relationship with their deployed parent, how to nurture your own relationship with your deployed partner, how to keep the routine going when you are solo parenting and how to make sure you still have energy left to take care of yourself.
Why Do You Need to Plan for a Deployment?
Living through a deployment is the most challenging part of being a military spouse. It is also – ironically – the most romanticized part. Though my husband is no longer active duty, his job keeps him away from home for months on end, several times a year. How do we make it through relatively unscathed? We have a plan in place and do not deviate from it (often).
So while your civilian friends are picturing perfumed letters and wistfully staring at the sky, pre-deployment for us looks like A Beautiful Mind with more laundry and lists - to-do lists, checklists, lists of lists, lists scrawled on post-it notes, lists scrawled on the whiteboard, half-washed off lists on hands and the list goes on. I have heard from multiple sources, including Brianna, that this listomania is not uncommon.
Having a well-thought-out plan in place during a deployment takes the guesswork out of stressful situations. And when you are solo parenting, everything can become stressful at the drop of a hat - even Skyping with your spouse. How horrible is that? When you want to see them, but the kids are dirty, the dishes are overflowing and the plumber is about the come over to fix the dishwasher that broke the second your spouse deployed. So you Skype - and you are genuinely excited to see them because you miss them - but you find yourself snapping at the kids and being short with your spouse, because this needs to get done and that deadline is coming up. The point is, if you aren’t intentional about the deployment, life will get in the way.
This is not going to be a how-to on planning for deployment. There is no magic bullet. No one approach to deployment will work for everyone, because every family and every deployment is different. Each of our families has unique strengths and a diverse array of needs that should be taken into account. What this is, is a reminder of the - often overlooked - areas we should be intentionally planning for. It's important to plan ahead for when things go right or wrong. So accept that things will go wrong and be as ready as you can anyway.
Throughout this article I often use “you” to refer to you AND your spouse. While you, the at-home partner, may shoulder much of the responsibility for making sure the plan unfurls with minimal hiccups, you cannot plan without input from your spouse. You both need to be on board or someone will end up dissapointed.
In which Brianna presents a couple of options for military families to stay connected by reading to their littles, even when they're away.
A great deployment strategy for a resilient family
Here at Busy Nest News, we love reading. It entertains us, challenges us, broadens our horizons, deepens our empathy for others, and it makes us smarter. So when we heard that other military families use reading to stay connected to each other during deployments, it seemed a natural and wonderful solution.
Some fortunate families can video chat daily during deployments. Since every day isn’t necessarily remarkable, frequent chats like that are a great opportunity to read books to littles or discuss books with the spouse or older kids back home. However, most of us aren’t in that position. If Monkey’s daddy was deployed right now, the very best he could manage would be an almost daily email, maybe. Worst communication situation would be a phone call once or twice a month. As a couple, we’ve experienced both scenarios. Monkey will not hang out on the phone long enough for her daddy to read her a story. But she would still miss having him read to her, as reading is already an integral part of our family’s routines. Fortunately, I know of some resources to bridge the gap between technologically deprived service members and the littles who love them.
In which Ariel discusses how personalized dolls - sometimes referred to as deployment dolls, since they are frequently used by military families - can help your little one deal with separation anxiety.
Plushies With a Personal Touch
During a deployment finding comfort in the absence of your loved ones can seem like an impossible task. If you are lucky you may be able to hear their voice or see their face but something is missing - touch. You cannot steal kisses or snatch hugs. You and your children feel this loss keenly, like an ache. One item that helps to fill this void are stuffed animals. Think about it; it makes sense. When I want an example of our most basic nature as human beings I watch my daughter. What does she turn to first when she needs comfort and my husband and I are otherwise occupied? Her luvvie. There is a reason most children have beds overflowing with plushies and bins vomiting up soft cuddlies - when we need comfort - physical comfort is the easiest to achieve with a pleasing texture or the act of putting our arms around something warm. Deployment dolls take the classic stuffed animals and make it personal.
In which Brianna details real ways teachers can make an impact in the lives of military kids, whether they have any in their classroom or not.
Teachers, this one is for you! Did you know that here in the United States, April is the Month of the Military Child? You’re probably thinking (if I dare to guess) “That’s awesome! I imagine Military Kids have unique challenges, and deserved to be thanked for the sacrifices they make.” And you’re right. Then you might think “But I don’t have any military kids in my class, so there isn’t anything I can do.” And that’s where you’re wrong.
According to the Military Child Education Coalition, the number of children whose parents are active duty, reservists or veterans stands at two million strong. Only 2% of their school-aged kids attend military (DODEA) schools. Chances are, you’re more likely to have military-connected kids in your class than you think. Military-connected children include those whose family includes someone who is or was a member of our armed forces, either as active duty or a reservist. Many active duty families will live on or very near a base, and you know if you’re in one of those areas. But some families are on special duties away from a base, or their family has chosen to remain in a civilian community for one of many reasons (usually physically separated from their service member). Also, we can’t forget that there are reservists and veterans in every community, and even though those designations sound pretty low-key, that isn’t necessarily the case. I’ve known reservists who have deployed several times more than a lot of active duty troops. Likewise, a veteran who has separated from the military will often have interactions with the military and be dealing with medical issues as a result of their service. Their family members take on the role of caretakers to varying degrees. If your community is composed primarily of immigrants or children of immigrants, do not assume that they have no affiliation with the military, either. Green Card holders can get their citizenship fast-tracked upon completing basic training, and I met many families who speak little-to-no English in the home while I worked with the military.
In which Brianna introduces the readers to one of her family's favorite books for dealing with a common childhood anxiety. This article contains affiliate links. By using them you're helping to keep Busy Nest News running. Thanks for your continued support!
No Matter What, Debi Gliori
April is the Month of the Military Child. As the mother of a military child, I’d like to share one of our favorite books that helps us thrive in this lifestyle. The best part is, it’s a great book for any kiddo, whether they have a military parent or not. Lots of kids have worries about big things, but all that is required to sooth them is often gentle, steady reassurance. Debi Gliori’s No Matter What contains the simple, but important message that a good parent loves their child, even on a bad day.
No Matter What features two kangaroos, known only as Small and Large. Large discovers Small throwing a fit and knocking over furniture. When Large asks what’s wrong, Small replies that they’re “grim and grumpy” and worry that Large does not love them at all. Over the next several pages, the two progress through dinner time, bath time, and bedtime while Small questions the steadfastness of Large’s love. “If I was a grumpy grizzly bear, would you still love, would you still care?” Each test is met with a calm “Of course...I’d always love you, no matter what.” When Small has calmed down and is accepting that Large’s love will survive any tantrum, they have more questions. Can you fix love? When they’re separated, does the love go with Large, or does it stay with Small?
In which Brianna selects a few toys to help kids celebrate their family's military service. This article contains affiliate links. By shopping with these links, you're helping to support Busy Nest News. Thanks!
As we’ve mentioned before (and will again in the coming weeks), April is the Month of the Military Child. Military kids sometimes have a pretty tough gig. We’ll talk more about those specific challenges in other articles, but today we’re looking at something fun: toys! Military kids are still kids, and so most of the toys they want will be the same toys every other kid in America wants. However, I believe there are some toys that will particularly resonate with their situation. I’ve rounded up a few fun toys to help military kids understand and celebrate their family’s service. Let’s get started!
In which Brianna investigates common assumptions about military children, through the lens of the television shows and movies their teachers have consumed. What assumptions have these works instilled, and how true are they?
Get ready: April is the Month of the Military Child
Since 1986, April has been designated the Month of the Military Child. This is a very special event for us, as both our husbands are Marines, and our children are unwittingly embarking on lives of service that they did not ask for. In preparation for this, we wanted to write an article about how teachers could incorporate the Month of the Military Child into their lesson plans. But then we spoke with some teachers and were reminded that the military-civilian divide is sadly a gaping chasm. In the event that a person has no contact with the military through a friend or family member (we're told that's about 99% of the country, so if it describes you, don't feel weird!), their impressions of military life are informed by the media. While there are many, many films about the military, few show the realities of military life for spouses, and fewer still for children. So what do we know about military kids? Which works have informed us of these truths? And how true are they, anyway? Let’s take a look!
Since impressions and assumptions about how “other” people live are formed in adolescence and early adulthood, we focused on television shows and movies that were popular when today’s teachers were teens or young adults. To come up with this list, we combined what teachers told us they watched at that age that they remember featured military kids, with shows that stuck out to us. In chronological order we examined Saved By the Bell, Recess, Cadet Kelly, NCIS, Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front, iCarly, and Army Wives.
Ariel and Brianna are friends who met while working in a library. Now they collaborate to develop life-enhancing book club experiences.
Let's keep in touch!