Text this morning as I’m walking the dogs, from a dear friend, now living in England: “Hello! Hope you are doing well. Would you be into writing a short blog post for National Military Family Month in November?”
Me, trying to write “sure,” as one dog spies a mortal enemy across the street, launching himself into the air and the other dog plays “hype man” encouraging bad behavior, wrapping her leash around my legs.
Would I ever.
Many military spouses have touched on, most eloquently, the resilience and supportive traits that make up a military family. This I will not dispute. There is a time-honored pride and most real sacrifice military families go through in the span of their spouse’s or parent’s career.
Indulge me, dear reader, to describe to you a quintessential moment that ALL military families know so well, so that you may get a peek into our world: PCS time!
PCS, for non-military families, means literally “Permanent Change of Station” — which I find Hi-lar-i-ous, because as any milspouse will tell you, there is nothing permanent about your living situation. Ever. Please allow me to elaborate:
- Your life goals are written on napkins stuffed into the bottom of your purse, and you probably have wiped a child’s nose with it.
- Your vacation plans are written on the family Etch-A-Sketch.
- Your kid’s growth chart is not written against the kitchen door, but taped up haphazardly with stickers that say “Fragile” and “Lot #102.”
- You stopped buying real plants long ago and now have the plastic ones that are really the only ones you could keep “alive” anyway. They are packed from 2 moves ago, stuffed into the coffee pot you desperately needed, along with 2 screws that were ceremoniously wrapped with fifty rolls of tape and the ancestral china, wedged and cracked against the power tools.
- You put the Christmas Tree up, standing precariously on camping chairs, decorated with Halloween skeletons, and stringing Stove-Top Stuffing — because that’s what has been delivered so far. And all the children want for Yule is the Wi-Fi password.
Typically, my wife gets her first “look” for potential orders 6-9 months before, then a second and third, because most of the possible places to go don’t fit her job description or rank. At 3 to 4 months before the moving truck arrives, we might be able to safely tell our dentist or hair stylist we are leaving.
Military families are a stalwart bunch, who will be unceremoniously uprooted every 2-3 years, kids taken out of school regardless of time of year. Spouses put in their 2-week notice, update their resume on LinkedIn, and perform searches for potential jobs anywhere between Virginia and Okinawa. This is where the “portable career” in the form of LuLaRoe and Scentsy became popular. You’re welcome.
Right at this moment, I am refreshing my browser every 5 minutes as I type, for an important email. We are due to move in 2ish weeks, and we were just informed that our teenage daughter and I might not be allowed to move with my wife if we don’t pass our overseas screening. What a Fine Navy Day!
This is the kind of hilarity that can happen in a military family. I get it. They have to guarantee that if any family member has medical, mental health, learning disability needs, that the next post/host country can accommodate these needs. It just might have been nice to know before we scheduled the movers, gave our 30-day notice on the house, and I spent over a month trying to find a school system or educational option for our daughter overseas. It’s the little things.
Military families have to think on their toes, because we usually have to hit the ground running at our next place, or figure out who to call for a leak and strange smell under the fridge, while my wife is TDY. If you still have your sanity and wits about you, don’t worry, that will pass.
You will learn your new friends’ names after you learn their dog’s name at the park. It takes 2 years before you get up the nerve to ask them their name since they now know your political persuasion, what kind of Hot Pot you burned at the restaurant, and your brother’s occupation. You know everything about their dog’s diet, which poops are suspect, and where they go for daycare.
You also learn your first Mom and Dad friends QUICKLY, as these strangers will be on your kids’ Emergency Contact list for school, and you will be on theirs. Kids of your spouse’s co-workers will be at every birthday party because you need to make it look “Festive and Full,” so your kid won’t need another nickel donated to their therapy jar.
For all of these ups and downs, bumps and chin scuffs along the way, being a military family really tests your metal in ways you never would have imagined, allowing you to bond with some of the most compassionate, generous and snarky people on the planet. We have found bonds and forever mil-family, had the unique pleasure to watch as their babies are born and to be there for many of those precious “firsts.” We are also there to help each other through insurmountable pain, emergencies, endless deployments and three-year-old’s who are in a full meltdown because they didn’t want their grilled cheese cut into squares.
When you find a military family friend you really bond with, they are ALL IN, giving you their complete self in service to others, lending you a hand and their car, and at times their own aging parents in Philly, when you and your wife have an 8-hour layover. It’s not a path for everyone, but we have had opportunities to live in places I would have never dreamed of and maybe more … if we pass our overseas screening.