Closeup of a service member hugging his daugher

Planning a Happy Homecoming

Homecoming. That one little word has so much meaning to us military spouses. It’s the moment we live for during a long deployment —dreaming about how we will look and the way we will stand when our hero first catches sight of us. I know I’m not the only one who watched hundreds of reunion videos online and cried at every single one of them.

The entire process of deployment is completely out of our hands, so it’s easy to go to extremes perfecting the only part that is in our control: the return. And so, we put huge (and unnecessary) amounts of stress on ourselves preparing. Perfect outfit…check. Pretty signage…check. We even obsess over the first kiss. I know I’m not alone in that either!

My husband just came home from deployment last week and let’s just say that it didn’t go exactly as I’d planned. Here are a few lessons I learned:

  • Be flexible. Plans will change – and then change again and again. Don’t diminish the happiness of the moment by being disappointed that it didn’t go as planned. Flights will be delayed, locations will change and the baby may just spill milk all over your new outfit three minutes before you need to leave the house. None of that matters.
  • Don’t overdo it. Your spouse is excited to see you – not your big, perfectly hand-lettered poster. And let’s be real, that clunky thing will only get in the way of your first hug. If you feel compelled to be artistic, be realistic about how your signs will fit in your car with four gigantic duffel bags of gear – and don’t let it hurt your feelings if they don’t even notice them because they’re too excited to see you.
  • The house doesn’t have to be perfect. My husband had so many new things to look at when he got home that it was a bit overwhelming. The house was tidy but I didn’t have time to clear the countertops of all the junk mail or organize the linen closet. And guess what? He didn’t even notice.
  • Talk about what might happen before it does. My husband and I spent hours on the phone in the two weeks leading up to his homecoming. I expressed my wish that it be just us as a family when we picked him up. We talked about how some of the experiences he’s had have changed him – and how mine have changed me. I gave him the lowdown on the kids’ schedules and what I had been using for punishments or incentives.

It’s okay to have a rough plan, but make sure to leave room for changes and hiccups. And most importantly, make sure to relish the moment when you lock eyes with your spouse after months apart. Homecoming is not a fairytale; it’s just another moment in time but it’s an important one, so celebrate it! And remember, happiness always outweighs perfection.

Lee-Anne Castro
Written By Lee-Anne Castro
Army National Guard Spouse

Lee-Anne is an Army National Guard spouse of 13 years. She works full time, has two kids and thinks she is much funnier than she really is.

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