I love you guys. You are so quick to befriend us when we move into your neighborhoods and communities. You open your homes and your hearts, and you really respect my husband’s military service and the family sacrifices this service entails.
It is out of this love that I am writing this post. To help you guys. Because, as big as your hearts are, and as much as you respect us, you sometimes don’t know what to say. When it comes to frequent moves and regular deployments, well, you sometimes don’t know what not to say.
I’m here to help. With a list.
1. Unless we are leaving in six months or sooner, don’t ask if we know where we are going next. We don’t know.
2. Don’t tell me about how you warn your children not to get too attached to our children because we will move in a couple of years. That bothers me a little.
3. Don’t tell me about the people you know who are totally messed up because of the frequent military moves during their childhood. Seriously you guys. It’s exactly like you are saying to me, “wow, your kids are screwed!”
4. If my husband is deployed, and you haven’t seen me in a while, don’t say, “Wow! He’s been gone ___ months already? Time has just flown by!” I know you mean that in an encouraging way, but a deployment only flies by when it’s not your loved one who is gone.
5. If my husband is deployed, and you know of someone whose husband was deployed for a longer period, do not say, “Count your blessings, at least he is not gone as long as so-and-so!” I know you mean to be encouraging, but I struggle with feeling insulted. I’m already aware that many military families have it a lot tougher than we do. To point out that fact somehow diminishes my own efforts.
6. When the deployment is coming to a close, do not ask, “do I have a date yet?” in front of my children. Even if I have a return date, I have not told them. It’s hard enough for grownups to handle the anticipation, let alone children. And even though they don’t know the exact date, they know the time is soon. The end of deployment is a hundred times harder to wait for than Christmas Day. So don’t remind them!
7. There is another important reason you should not ask, “do I have a date?” Even if I have one, there is no such thing as a guarantee in the military. Big things (like 9/11) can interfere. Even little things, like VIP visits or unexpected airplane maintainance, can delay a return. Not only do I need to protect my children from being disappointed by the “needs of the military,” but frankly I need to protect myself from that too. So don’t ask me zero in on a certain day. Okay?
Okay. Perhaps now you are thinking, well, cripes. What am I allowed to say, that won’t offend your mysterious milspouse sensitivities?
I’ve got a list for that too. Things you should say to military spouses:
1. “How are you doing?” Simple, I know. It may even sound impersonal, but remember that if you know my husband is deployed, you will say it with an intonation that says, “have the kids driven you crazy yet?”
2. “How are the kids doing?” This may also sound impersonal, but it’s just another way of asking whether they are driving me crazy.
3. “Is there anything I can do to help you?” This is a vague offer of help, so it is not ideal, but I’ll take it in a pinch. It might be that I was wishing the younger child didn’t have to come along to a soccer game, and I’ll say, yes. Can you look after younger son for a few hours? So don’t ask unless you mean it.
4. “If there is any time when you need help, please let me know.” This is the invitation to call you, should I ever need to take one child to the ER in the middle of the night. I am not likely to take you up on this offer, but still. I’m glad you offered. It’s reassuring to know you can leave the healthy child with someone if you really have to.
5. “Would you like to do ____ with us this weekend?” One of the primary objectives of a military spouse during deployment is keeping busy. Time goes by faster when you are busy. Getting lots of invitations helps us keep busy. So thanks. Whether it is a church function, a sleepover, a day at the beach, or a trip to Walt Disney World, I am glad to have the opportunity. Thanks for asking me!
6. “Would you like me to take your sons to ____ activity? You don’t have to come along.” The answer is yes yes YES! I do want you to take my sons to ____ activity! And I do want to stay home! This kind of offer makes you a sort of platinum level milspouse supporter. Just in case you were wondering how to score a home run with your local military family.
Well, that’s about it. In case you were wondering, yes. Every single one of the items listed have actually occurred. If it is negative then no, it wasn’t you. It was someone else.