All the boxes — I’ll take all the boxes. That’s my thought every time I see a post on our community’s Facebook page from yet another new neighbor that advertises “boxes and packing paper free on the porch.”
There’s nothing like the smell of cardboard in the summer in a military-heavy neighborhood, but it’s hard to get in the spirit of moving season when you watch new faces settle in as you scramble to get your kid ready for kindergarten while simultaneously filling out paperwork for a mid-year transfer on the complete opposite side of the country — 2,869 miles to be exact.
This is my first move off cycle, and so far I can describe it as having our invitation to the party lost in the mail.
#1: School breaks never, repeat never, align.
A summer PCS takes advantage of a season-long vacation from school, but moving literally any other time in the year means pulling kids out of one school and dropping them in another mid-year.
This leaves parents like me doing crazy real-life word problems like, “Student A starts spring break in California on March 20 and has two weeks off. His family leaves to move across the country on March 31. He arrives at his new home on April 8. His new school takes spring break from April 10-17. How many weeks of school will he miss?” Four — the answer is roughly one month out of school. Widen your eyes just a little more, and you’ll be at my level of amazement.
What’s a parent to do? We do our homework — lots and lots of homework — to make sure every little detail is attended to (enrollment paperwork, grade transfers and school physicals), so that all we have to do is show up and be the new kid (and we hope that doesn’t become an issue all its own). So far, the school liaison at our future installation has been amazing. Make this lifeline your first point of contact every time.
#2: Weaving a vacation into an off-cycle PCS is tricky.
Our summer move to California was the stuff of dreams. We could have been the spokesmodels for the great American road trip. State by state, we checked items off our bucket lists. Naturally, I wanted to replicate this grand cross-country trip (the optimist in me thinks this might be our last time driving all the way across), but we planned to take a northern route. Funny thing about the north in early spring: It’s frozen. I’ve already axed the Yellowstone adventure and glamping in Montana. We’ll hit Seattle, Mount Rushmore, Chicago and hope we aren’t racing a late blizzard.
#3: Rental houses hibernate in the winter.
If you’re ever bored (or you’re just a premature house hunter, like me), take a peek at rental listings during the summer. Our future duty station currently has pages and pages of options within our housing allowance. I have serious concerns that we’ll be dealing with a skeleton crew when we start our search after the holidays. Maybe I’m wrong — I hope I’m wrong — but from my experience as a landlord, I know that pickings tend to be slim outside of the summer months.
#4: We mean it when we insist on no gifts for the holidays.
Oh, Grandma and Nana — and you too, Uncle K, with your tradition of gifting gigantic stuffed animals — the months leading up to a move are traditionally the purging months in this house. If I’m not running things to the dump or the donation bin, I’m probably hosting a yard sale in which everything must go. The last thing I need is one more thing to pack and unpack. What I won’t say no to are some things that could be helpful during the move — maybe a road trip game, a book, a movie, travel funding, etc. We are all in agreement that we want the kids to have a memorable holiday, and believe me, they will — we’re planning a trip instead of focusing on gifts. And, if that’s not enough, just wait until you see their faces light up as they unpack everything that’s been in storage for two years, “And you get a kitchen set. And you get a trampoline. How about a TV for the playroom?”
#5: “One [really] is the loneliest number.”
No one throws around Facebook “likes” like I do in the summer — moving boxes, moving trucks, PCS vacations, saying goodbye to old friends and embracing new friends. Like, like, love, sad face, like — I really get in the moving season spirit. But it’s bittersweet when you watch all the friends you’ve made at a duty station pack up and leave without you. We’ve already said goodbye to friends here, and there’s another wave coming just before the holidays. We’ll be holding down the fort here on the block all by ourselves for three months after our friends have moved on.
I’m pretty independent, so I’ll be OK (aside from missing them dearly, of course). But I think about my kids starting to lose their friends months before their move. That’s a long timeline of emotion for such tender hearts. I also think about how — even on the days we weren’t purposely spending time together — our neighbors and friends were just part of our lives here, and that even simple things, like checking the mail or taking out the garbage, will be a little different without them.
It’s not all bad
Like any other part of military life, we can’t change the fact that we may once (please) or twice (hopefully not) have to move off cycle. So, we can wallow in the unfortunate timing or dig through that packing paper for a silver lining. Some perks of moving off cycle, include:
- All the gently used packing paper and boxes we can handle
- Cooler temps on moving day (in theory, anyway)
- Built-in child care on moving day (unless your kids happen to be on a school break)
- Lower home prices (also in theory — homeowners that didn’t sell or rent their places in the summer may lower the price to entice buyers or renters)
I am sure when it’s all said and done, I’ll have a whole new blog to write about “what not to do during an off-cycle move,” but I’m going to roll with it for now and try to get my 5-year old to keep his enthusiasm for his month-long spring break at a minimum.