Service member crossing the street giving the peace sign

Expectations and Realizations While PCSing


MOVING! We’re MOVING!!!! Now, read into this what you will. Sometimes it is said with a big giant grin, a click of the heels and the frenzied excitement of moving begins. Other times it is said with giant question marks and accusatory tones bellowed loudly into the universe. I have experienced both ends of this emotional spectrum.

There is a certain term I have gleaned from my professional life that I find effective in other areas of my life such as family, volunteerism and my checking account: “Managing Expectations.”

I do this on a daily basis. For example, “Dear family, I am very busy tonight – feed yourselves” or “Dear hardworking husband, I have spent all the money… again. We are broke until pay day.” I find this philosophy works well when moving. Regardless of what initial emotion the announcement of an impending move is met with, you will want to quickly set the appropriate expectations for your family and for yourself. This is no time for fantasy, building up the new duty station and potentially setting your family up for major disappointment.

So, let’s manage some expectations. Invest some time in researching where you are going, what there is to see and do along the way as well as once you get there. Life really is an adventure, and if you model this attitude, it will serve your children well as they grow older.

BUT KELLI, we have to drive Interstate 10 from California to Texas. Do you have any idea what you drive through? Why yes, yes I do. Sometimes the adventure happens within your own vehicle and at rest stops along the way. But adventures don’t just happen; you have to help them along sometimes. As the kids got older, we would “PT” at every rest stop, to include pushups, jumping jacks, wind sprints and the occasional spontaneous flying ninja leap off cement picnic tables. Six kids, three dogs and a Marine running amuck off Interstate 10 is no boring afternoon.

Helping kids adjust – Not always an easy task. While our younger children are more physically tiring to manage during a move, they are pretty good about adjusting. We pack them up and stick them in a vehicle or on an airplane loaded down with electronic devices, snack cups and juice boxes. Somewhere you should have a giant box of wipes and a few trash bags too.  Older children who are more emotionally invested in people and places they are leaving are a harder sell.

Focus on the positive of the move, but be honest. It stinks to leave friends, it hurts to say goodbye and the new duty station may look like the end of the world. I recommend you don’t try and tell them something you know isn’t true. Making friends is hard, especially if you are a 14 year old introverted boy who has yet to hit his growth spurt AND still wears braces. Anyone who makes it through that emotionally intact has amazing parents!

Sit down; talk it out. By talk, I mean listen! Hear what they have to say, acknowledge their fears and then tailor your words and advice to what they need to hear. If you have a child who is a history buff, focus on what will now be available. If your children are athletic and adventurous, check out the resources that will be nearby. Above all, remind your children of who they are and what they are capable of.  All children need to know their folks believe in them and their ability to overcome challenges. They also need to know they aren’t alone in those challenges. Our truest character shows through during the most challenging times. Help them to understand that and rise to those challenges.

No kids to manage but feel like throwing a fit when you hear when and where you are moving? Do the same thing, but with your partner. Talk about what you’re worried about and what you’ll miss. Find the advantage and the silver lining. Yes, channel Pollyanna on occasion; it works. Sometimes it’s just a shred of excitement, but it can be enough. Note: you will have to take turns being Pollyanna for each other. Moving is not always fun or easy to do. We have broken down, been ill, and had flat tires and major fights on the side of a highway. However, we all got back in, fixed what was broken, found some ice cream or another sugary delight and carried on.

Don’t forget other people are affected by your move too, even if just peripherally. Address those expectations as well. Just because you were able to stop and visit every grandparent, aunt, uncle and cousin along the way last time, doesn’t mean you can or want to this time. Report dates, school, location and time of year you are traveling make this a new adventure each and every time. No two deployments are alike and no two moves are alike. Sometimes you just don’t want to stop, but get to where you’re going, get set up and settled down. Be clear about what you can and can’t do.

Finally, keep a sense of humor. Some of the funniest stories now were not funny when they happened. However I remember thinking, “This will be funny—at some point” as we met moving challenges along the way.

Looking back on a lifetime of moves, I am amazed at my family, what we have done and the adventures we’ve had together on purpose and otherwise. Our moves bind us together and for that I am grateful.

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