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Sisterhood* of the Traveling Parents

 Posted by on July 28, 2016 at 08:00
Jul 282016
 
Julie

Julie

*Brotherhood of the traveling parents, too. I’m not trying to leave out the dads, just referring to sisterhood from personal experience.

Shrink your world and expand your village. That’s the Alice-from-Wonderland effect that military life can have on your childhood concepts of an enormous world and small network of friends. I grew up in the civilian world where my family stayed in the same house and went to the same schools. I always had family and friends around me for support and never considered that life would be any different than that. And then it was. I’ve got five tips to share that helped me find and form a sisterhood among the other PCSing parents and thrive in military life no matter where we lived.

Tip #1: Participate in events.

When we PCS’d to Sicily, Italy (leaving all the family and friends I’d known), I was nervous that I’d be completely alone when my husband deployed. That’s when I started to notice the magic of the military community. From the day we landed in Catania and met our Navy sponsor we began to form bonds with people in our new community. This trend continued through the indoctrination course that brought us up to speed on local customs, etiquette, conversational Italian with key phrases and hand gestures, as well as earning an Italian driver’s license.

We made a great connection with a group of people in that class when we went on a “get lost trip” to Syracuse, Sicily. The assignment put our group on an adventure where we had to dive into a culture and language we didn’t know, arrive to the city in one mode of transportation, find assigned items along the way and return home by a different form of transportation. We created great memories as we worked our way to and through Syracuse and back home. We must have been a sight with our halting and butchered Italian, wild gestures, animated facial expressions, but we managed to get directions, buy tickets, and tour the ruins in the city —oh and made good friends in the process.

Tip #2: Drop the labels.

The nature of friendships you make while in the military tend to be a bit different than in the civilian world. You make friends quickly in the military community…it’s almost like speed dating for friendship, because you only have two to three years in that one location. Don’t start out by labeling people and prejudging them. Get to know who they are. Continue to make many acquaintances while you get to know people a bit better. It won’t take long before you develop a close circle of support.

My village began to expand even more as we took advantage of opportunities to meet other people.  We attended local festivals, on-base events (airshows, Morale, Welfare and Recreation sponsored family events and holiday celebrations), mom’s groups, and house parties with co-workers and neighbors in order to meet more people. The more people you meet, the more likely you are to find good friends. We all find ourselves labeling people from time to time. But, now’s the time to recognize it and stop labeling people. I would have missed some amazing friends had I put people in a box and moved on before getting to know them.

Tip #3: Nurture your friendships.

In both our duty stations of Sicily and Virginia Beach, the friends I made — a few different groups of moms (and their families) — became my sisters by choice. We stood by one another through pregnancies, adoptions, illnesses, deployments, births and deaths. We helped each other through the day-to-day difficulties of long deployments by helping each other with cleaning chores, yard work and making dinner for one another. Exploring landmarks and community novelties with the kids or planning girls’ night out were some of the ways we got each other out of the house and kept something special on the calendar to look forward to in between deployment mile markers.

These women were wonderful examples to me of the kind of mom I wanted to be and I took lessons from each of them. They also taught me a lot about how to be a good friend. Sometimes, when you’re struggling through a deployment, you don’t know what help you need. But caring friends pay attention to things like that and act when they notice something that needs to be done or when you need to chat.

Tip #4: Respect family time.

Military spouses understand that when the service member comes home from a deployment, the family forms a bit of a cocoon while they reintegrate and get used to being a family again. Always be understanding and respectful of that. Our job as friends is to support one another. Sometimes the best way to be a friend is to step back and give them space.

Not everyone cocoons. Some people prefer to be with friends to welcome home the deployed spouse. Whatever your friends prefer, be ready to support. During deployments I’d be in touch with some friends every day, some every week and others a few times a month. Remember to be flexible. Not everyone needs the same amount of support or attention.

Tip #5: Bloom where transplanted.

Going through large life transitions together (PCSing, learning a new culture and language by immersion, living through deployments, becoming parents, etc.), creates a lifelong bond of friendship. One of the great traits of military friends, and good friends in general, is that even after you move away, and even with years between visits, it’s like no time passed and you pick up your conversation right where it left off.

There’s a respect and an understanding between military friends where you know you both must bloom where you are transplanted. This means that with each move the initial focus has to be on expanding your village of support at the new location. You both do this while enjoying the friendships you’ve made over the years.

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6 Reasons We Should All Be Volunteering

 Posted by on May 2, 2016 at 21:53
May 022016
 
Kristi

Kristi

It hit me when I was pinning gold leaves on my husband’s collar one unusually hot February afternoon: I’m not the “new spouse” anymore. But, I didn’t feel ready to be a spouse with answers; I still had a whole mess of unanswered questions. I still use names like, the Jack Nicolson and the wedding one to describe my husband’s uniforms. I know they have real names. I know I should probably know what they are after nearly eight years, but I can only fit so many penguins on my iceberg — I have to leave room for school pick-up and drop-off times, my own phone number and, of course, my sponsor’s social.

We are all learning as we go. We all went through that “stupid question” phase. If we’re being honest, we’re all still going through that phase because the minute we have something figured out, someone changes it.

My purpose in showing my military spouse age is not to invite comments about how I don’t look a day older than my first deployment brief or how I am wise beyond my military spouse years. Although, if you feel compelled, who am I to stop you? Really, my point is to spike participation in…well…everything.

Lack of volunteerism among military spouses is an ongoing issue — go figure, it’s the one thing that never changes from installation to installation. Don’t misunderstand — there are always, always a handful of ladies and gentlemen who do the work of many with just a few of their own hours to work with. I know, for myself at least, I’ve always put off getting involved until my kids were older and I had a better handle on this whole military spouse thing. Realizing I’m no longer new at this made that new-spouse expiration date hard to ignore.

We are all busy; we are all perpetually the new kid after each move. We all have our kids, fur babies, jobs or school that vie for our time, and we couldn’t possibly add anything else into the mix. But there’s a cyclical stigma with volunteering: People avoid it because they don’t want it to take over their agendas, but because most people are hesitant to get involved, five people do the work of 500. The cycle continues with that, “If I don’t make eye contact, you won’t call on me,” mindset — because we don’t want to have another thing to do at the end of an exhausting day. But volunteering doesn’t have to swallow up our time, and it shouldn’t. If everyone in the military community found something to do once a month there wouldn’t be so much work to pile on the regular volunteers.

Volunteering somehow, somewhere in the military community is worth our time because we can:

  1. Support military-community programs that support us and incoming military families
  2. Learn on the job
  3. Make new friends
  4. Network with other spouses
  5. Add some community involvement skills to our resumes
  6. Be a part of decisions that shape the military community

You don’t have to do it all, but we all just have to do something. So, the next time you get an invitation in your inbox or your service member comes home with spotty details about something you could do (you know, if you want), get the details before you number off the reasons you can’t do it (believe me, no one is guiltier of this than I am). Chances are all we’ll have to do is give two or three hours of our day — that’s pretty harmless. And carving out a little time now will ensure that popular programs and services are around for the next round of incoming military spouses and service members.

12 Tips for the Newbie MilSpouse

 Posted by on December 17, 2015 at 07:42
Dec 172015
 
Melissa

Melissa

I just realized the other day that my husband is well past the magical halfway mark to retirement and we are quickly approaching the home stretch. This happened when I was referred to in conversation as a “seasoned spouse.” The foodie in me instantly thought “Ooh yum! Seasoned with what?” Then I realized it was a polite way of saying I have” been around the block a time or two.” Wait, was I just called old? When did this happen, this seasoning stuff? Some days I can’t believe how fast we got to this point, and other times I think, “Gosh! I have no idea what I am doing.” Who’s with me on that one, seasoned or not?

Neither of us were military “brats” so this life was all new to us. As I thought back on the years (Did I just say “years” plural? Maybe I am more seasoned than I want to admit.), I remembered all the awesome advice and tips I got from spouses who have walked this road before me. So I want to pass their advice along, as well as share some things I have learned over the years.

  1. The military community is small. Be courteous to everyone, because you will see them again one day if your spouse serves more than four years. You do not have to like everyone you meet, but you should be respectful of everyone.
  2. And speaking of being courteous, let’s talk about gossip. Don’t do it. Mark your “It stops here” role on the Gossip Train early and maintain it.
  3. Get involved. Being a part of a family readiness group does not make you a “dependa” or a spouse without her own life. It means you have a giving heart and are involved. No shame in that.
  4. Don’t fight the dress code on an installation. You are a guest on the installation, even if you live in base housing. Now is not the time to be a clothing vigilante. Put away the shower shoes or throw on a cardigan. There are bigger battles to fight.
  5. Do not get involved in the rank game. A good rule of practice I maintain is to never discuss my husband’s rank with anyone. As spouses we can mingle with anyone we want. That means you may find yourself friends with the E-1 spouses all the way up to the spouse of a general. Don’t judge and make friends based on their SPOUSE’s rank, or you will be missing out on some good friendships along the way.
  6. There is always, always, always, something good in every duty station. Some locations might be filled to the brim with positive, and others may require a magnifying glass and digging, but there is something good. I promise. I am looking at you folks stationed in the desert.
  7. The early days of your military marriage may be some of your hardest, but they will soon be fond memories of an era you wish you could go back to. I personally miss when weekend entertainment was having cookouts at our friend’s houses because that is all any of us could afford. Moments like these turn into memories of “the good ole days.”
  8. Life can also happen outside the gates. I know it’s easy to fall into the grind of base living because everything is so convenient, but make it a point to get out into your surrounding community at least once a week. Go exploring, go shopping, visit a park, do something. When I look back on everywhere we lived, the memories that first come to mind are always our time in the community, not how quickly we could get to the commissary.
  9. Ask for help. Especially if you are new at this life. It’s hard to pick up and move away from everything you have ever known and be dropped into the middle of a new life — especially one full of so many rules and where people speak another language (military). Use the support services on your installation. That is what they are there for. Don’t “tough guy” it up.
  10. Attend your branch’s version of “Military Spouse 101” class — then attend it again in 5 years, because you will learn something new.
  11. Find a milspouse mentor. Military spouses are an AWESOME and diverse group of folks. Find a spouse that emulates the qualities important to you and learn from them. There is no need to blaze your own trail when one has already been cut for you. Save your trail cutting skills for other paths that will come your way.
  12. Keep working on you. Follow your dreams even as your follow your spouse. If this involves going back to school, do it. Even if it takes twice as long. Build a career if that is important to you. Roll up your sleeves, dust off your resume and get to applying. Think outside the box and you may find your dream job looks completely different than you thought it did. Just don’t ever stop doing things for you.

The most important advice I can give is to honestly enjoy the time. The military life is one of the most unique ones around, so embrace it. Say “YES!” to duty stations you never dreamed of going to. Say “YES!” to living outside your comfort zone, and watch what the world has in store for you.

It Takes a Village: But I Get to Pick the Villagers

 Posted by on April 30, 2015 at 10:46
Apr 302015
 

 

I love the ancient African proverb “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” I don’t disagree with that, except these days I’d like to modify it to read “It takes a whole village to raise a child. but I get to decide which villagers.”

We definitely need the support of our village. When our children are 2, we are exhausted and need breaks and sleep. When our children are

Kelli

Kelli

teenagers we need back-up support teaching the life lessons we are desperately hoping they learn. Especially when the eyes start rolling and suddenly our beautiful children think we are the dumbest people on the planet. Hearing the same message from someone other than their parents is powerful. The problem is if we are not diligent on whom we allow to influence our children then we may be asking for more trouble than the “help” is worth.

Not all villagers are created equal. Just because someone is charismatic, in position of authority or attends your same social, religious or other type organization doesn’t mean they are automatically teaching the principles and values you want your children to learn. We cannot give up our roles as the main authority and decision maker for what is right and wrong for our children and our families.

I believe in everyone making their own choices on what they believe and how they choose to live. I also firmly believe we must exercise that same right when it comes to parenting. Do not relinquish this precious role to anyone. The strongest teachings are done right in your own home. Good ones and bad ones. Powerful lessons are taught at the kitchen table without us even knowing it.

The great thing about being military is there is a constant rotation of villagers. The bad thing is there is a constant rotation of villagers. It’s hard to build up your network of influence and then say goodbye and have to start all over. It’s also easy to be fooled. There have been a few times I have regretted letting someone in close to my child. I thought it was the right place to be and good old hindsight shows I should have not let that person in as close as I did.

Does that mean I should have pulled my daughter from that activity and banned her from the presence of that villager? In this particular case no, of course not, but sometimes the answer might be yes. What I should have done was realized the toll it was taking on my child and avoided some of the situations we found ourselves in. I could have counseled her in a way that might have limited the influence and, more importantly, kept some emotional distance.

Even the negative experiences are valuable. My daughter and I have talked and we agree there were valuable lessons learned from that experience. We also wish I had realized sooner that she was in over her head and stepped in. Both of us were hurt by someone we thought was a friend and mentor to both me and my daughter.

Hurt feelings and disappointment happen in life. There is value in learning this early and how to deal with it. What I did do right was to be there to guide her through that journey. There is nothing worse than having someone you look up to fall off their pedestal. Our youth love hard and when they are disappointed their hurt can be as intense as their love and admiration.

Parenting is a tightrope act. Knowing when to let things proceed, let you child experience problems and problem solving while learning valuable lessons is often a step away from being disengaged and unaware.

Stepping in to make sure it’s not more than they are ready to handle, on the other hand, is a short fall to being overly controlling, never allowing your children to learn to deal with challenges, hurt feelings or embarrassment. The risk becomes children unprepared to handle life away from the safety net of home.

Surrounding yourself and your family with good people, especially when you live far away from your own family, is vital. I have also had the great fortune to have friends that not only loved me, but loved my children. The ties that bound us as friends allowed my children to have other “moms” to talk to when maybe they didn’t feel they could talk to me.

Sometimes it was another mom who made the hard decision to let me know something she had witnessed, heard or was concerned about. Having friends I trusted and respected who were able to come to me in times like those has made all the difference in my ability to parent my children.

It wasn’t always easy and I had to be willing to hear what they had to say. Raising children is a messy, glorious, heartbreaking and joyous lifelong endeavor. I am thankful to those who have had my back, called me out and tattled on my children.

I am also so very grateful for those who have loved my children through their unlovable moments and recognized they were growing up and that isn’t always pretty. Those villagers are forever in my heart. Find them. They are the ones you really want in your corner.

It is OK to invite someone to leave your inner circle. Your children are more important than friends. If the influence is going to be something you feel will have negative effects, then don’t be afraid to put your kids first. It’s not always easy, but sometimes it is necessary.

I love my village. It knows no geographical, race, gender or familial boundaries. It has all kinds of villagers in it. Some are only around for a short time and others I just can’t seem to shake nor do I want to. What they all have in common is they are supportive, helpful and kind. They back me up and keep me sane. They love my children and they let me love theirs. Some are in Australia, North Carolina, California and Texas. Some I have no idea where they are.

Get out there, build your village and know it’s okay to pick which villagers you call yours.

More Than DNA

 Posted by on December 18, 2014 at 08:00
Dec 182014
 
Kelli

Kelli

When you hear the word “family,” what do you envision? If you were born 100 years ago, you would automatically assume it was the traditional mom, dad and 11 siblings. In today’s 21st century world, it’s not that clearly defined. When I hear the word “family” in my mind’s eye, I do picture the traditional mom (me) and dad (my husband) and our six offspring. I also see my sister, her family, my parents, grandparents and assorted cousins. However, I also have a flood of faces that are not necessarily connected to me through DNA strands. We are connected by duty stations, life events, deployments and the day-to-day living military families often do far away from those families we were born into.

I have added many “sisters” along the way and a few grandparents. The ties that bind us are the long days in the middle of a deployment when it looks like no end in sight to the deployment, the dirty dishes and the laundry.

In the labor and delivery room, I forged a bond with a sister who held my hand when my husband wasn’t there to hold it.

In those stolen moments away from children, over “pie night” or some other treat, women became part of my village as we discussed our families, our lives and, of course, the next deployment that always seemed to come.

There were middle of the night phone calls that caused, without hesitation, one of us to get up and go to the aid of the other simply because we knew we were most likely all the other had in challenging times.

No one ever said, “How do you do it with your husband gone all the time?” Theirs was gone too and when one of our husbands was home, he had more than just his own home to help repair. He had several. That’s what family does.

I love the family I was born into. They are some of the best people you will ever meet. I also love the family I’ve built along the way. I have been honored to have them as brothers and sisters and consider my life richer because of them.

So when you think you are alone and you’re far away from family, just remember family is so much more than those sharing your DNA. Look around, you might be surprised at the family you have right under your nose.

 

 

Guest Blog | #MyMilFam Supporting Spouse Careers

 Posted by on November 30, 2014 at 10:00
Nov 302014
 

Guest Blogger:CharLine Vinson

My military family month contribution may be a little different than some of the others. Sure, I am a Marine wife married to a man with no military family history and I have no family in the military, either. I am also the mother of three children — Chaun 12, Jesslene 6, and Shylon 4 — who have moved to four states in six years, with all of the grief and adventure that implies. But, I felt compelled to write not so much to describe the decade of my husband Steven’s service or the six years of our marriage and military family life. I’m writing to say thank you to the country and the military for the programs supporting spouse education.

I think the general public is aware about the GI Bill available to the members of the armed services themselves, but less widely discussed is Spouse Tuition Assistance. It’s called MyCAA and it was re-activated four years ago to contribute to education and training for spouses of junior enlisted members, junior warrant officers and junior officers.

I’ve taken advantage of the program to help fund my education as a pharmacy technician. As soon as my youngest starts kindergarten next year, I will be ready to go to work full-time.

There are many programs I’m grateful for – specifically those that occupy and support my children on base – Learning Time at the library and activities with the Armed Services Young Men’s Christian Association. But I think I can make that case that no program is as critical to the future of my family as the program that allows me to advance my career and create still more possibilities for my children. I hope this blog entry will make more couples aware of the program, so the same opportunities might be available to them.

 

Nov 272014
 

Guest Bloggers:  Chris Dellamura & Aaron Austin

Imagine living your life as both participant and not-so-casual observer. That out-of-body experience is what it can be like to be a gay person in the military. In the days of “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell”, we lived life looking over our shoulders, for fear that we would lose our careers and our ability to serve our nation simply because of who we were and who we loved. Today, we look forward with wonder after the military responded to a revolutionary Supreme Court ruling and declared same-sex and mixed-sex marriages would be treated equally.

Suddenly, a military — historically received as a symbol of conservatism – is a catalyst for civil rights advance. Its response is more progressive than those of most states and well ahead of many countries around the world.

My husband, Chris, is a decorated Chief Warrant Officer 4 Black Hawk pilot, who was stationed at Fort Belvoir when we met seven years ago. I remember feeling this incredible sense of fear just to go grocery shopping with him at the commissary. If someone were to see us together would they then allege that Chris was gay and would that cost him his career?

It’s incredible how much has changed. We married last year and found ourselves instantly on the front line of progress. Just days after our wedding, DoD responded to the Supreme Court ruling striking down the so-called Defense of Marriage act (DOMA); it instituted sweeping policies that gave same-sex married couples access to housing allowances, spousal healthcare and more importantly, access to the many social support networks and services that come with being a part of the military family. Within weeks, I would be welcomed during a Hail and Farewell ceremony at Fort Benning, where Chris is an Instructor Pilot and Instrument Flight Examiner. I am now an active participant in the base Family Readiness Group.

Chris has served in the Army for 16 years. He notes he spent most of that time hiding who he was. He was acknowledged for his service, but the core of his identity was shunned.

Now, when it comes to these issues of social justice and civil rights, the military is a leader. It recognizes my marriage even though the state of Georgia where we live does not (yet). When we file taxes, we file a federal return as a married couple, but we’re forced to file as singles on our state returns. If we were not a military family, our marriage would be completely meaningless in the eyes of the law here in Georgia.

While I do totally celebrate the progress that we have made by repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA, it’s important that we are not complacent. We must continue the work to guarantee equality for LGBT service members. Sexual orientation is not a protected employment class such as race, nationality, gender or religion. Our LGBT service members can still face discrimination without the promise of consequence.

My father, grandfather and stepfather all enjoyed military careers. My husband’s grandfather served in World War II and my husband’s sister is a retired Air Force officer who rose from enlisted ranks. We and our families remain hopeful that the military will continue to advance change on behalf of its LGBT service members. If the last few years are any guide, we’re optimistic for the future.

Guest Blog | Four Benefits of Volunteering

 Posted by on November 12, 2014 at 08:15
Nov 122014
 

Blogger Biography: Cecelia Curtis is a marketing and communications professional with experience in the corporate, nonprofit and government sectors. She is also a proud military spouse. Cecelia’s husband of 11 years, Bryan, serves in the U.S. Air Force. Cecelia and Bryan currently live in South Florida, just outside of Miami.

Cecelia

Cecelia

I’m in a new city…again. My husband and I have been married for 11 years, and we’re on our fourth duty station. I can honestly say, though, that I’ve enjoyed every single place that we’ve called home. When people ask me what the best part about military life is, I say moving. Thanks to my husband’s Air Force career, I’ve gotten to see many parts of the world, and I’ve met some truly wonderful people. When people ask me what the most challenging part of military life is, I also say moving. Each move means that I have to say goodbye to my job, my friends and my home. It’s never easy, but I’ve learned that serving others during periods of transition helps me in four key ways:

1. It takes the focus off me. Making one big life change, such as moving to a new house, can be tricky. Making multiple life changes at once, like moving to a new city, changing jobs and leaving your family and friends, can be downright stressful. With so much going on, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and even get a bit down. Serving others can help, though. I’ve found that when I focus on other people’s needs, I stop thinking so much about myself and any stress or frustration I’m experiencing. Plus, it just feels really good to get out and contribute to my new community in a positive way.

2. It introduces me to new people. Being new in town can be a lonely experience, but it doesn’t have to be. When I touch down in a new city, I always think, “The sooner I meet people, the sooner I’ll make friends, and the sooner this place will feel like home!” Volunteering can be a great, safe way to meet people who share similar interests. Whether you’re building a house for a family in need, ushering at a local playhouse or stuffing envelopes at your kid’s school, you will probably have time to talk with others. These conversations can lay the groundwork for great new friendships.

3. It teaches me new skills. It doesn’t matter where I volunteer or what I say I want to do — I am always asked to do something that I didn’t quite sign up for. And I almost always say yes. I love learning new things, and I never know when a new skill will come in handy. I’ve learned so much on volunteer sites…how to hang drywall, new recipes, social media management and even TV and radio broadcasting! These skills have helped me both personally and professionally, and I learned all of this for free while helping others! I just had to be willing to give a little bit of my time.

4. It boosts my job search. It can be tough to find a job, particularly if you are new in town and don’t know anyone. Again, volunteering can help. As you’re focusing on helping others, meeting new people and learning new skills, you’re also networking. Filling out job applications is one thing, but there’s nothing more powerful than a strong network of people who know your skills and have seen you in action. In fact, I was recently offered a job by one of my fellow church volunteers. Of course, I wasn’t serving at church expecting a job in return, but what a pleasant surprise!

 

In short, moving is a part of military life, and each move has its unique set of rewards and challenges. Serving others as a volunteer can help make life in your new city more rewarding and a bit less challenging as you focus on others, grow your social circle, learn valuable new skills and look for a job. Still, I’ve found that what I love most about volunteering is that it just feels good. It feels great to put my skills and talents to good use helping others no matter where I happen to call home.

 

New Parent, New Support

 Posted by on October 7, 2014 at 09:15
Oct 072014
 
Kristi

Kristi

In the days leading up to my son’s birth, I remember friends, family members and even complete strangers asking me if I was nervous about childbirth.

No matter who was asking, my answer was always the same, “I’m not worried about delivery; I’m worried about the 18 years that follow.”

My mindset was that delivery was an inevitable event at that point. I could gather that it was probably going to hurt, but honestly, what was I going to do at 38 weeks pregnant? Ready or not, it was happening.

What kept me awake at night (besides the sciatic pain and 15 trips to the bathroom) were oddly specific concerns about caring for a newborn. How would I know when to feed my son? How often should I bathe him? When could he split a PB&J with me? And what the heck was I supposed to do with little boy parts? Advice from two separate loved ones could be completely contradictory. One parenting book would preach about on-demand feeding while the neighboring book on the bookstore shelf swore up and down that a structured schedule was the only way to go.

On top of the “regular” parenting struggles, like feeding, safe sleep, childproofing and the dreaded potty training, I knew I’d eventually be guiding my kids through challenges totally foreign to me since I didn’t grow up in a military family. Even before officially becoming a mom, I knew that moving and deployments would become like second nature to my kids, which was crazy to think about because I was still trying to understand them both.

Whether you’re confused about the whole new parent thing, parenting as a milspouse or all of the above, the answers you need are closer than you might think – and they’re certainly more convenient than flipping through a dozen parenting book indexes. The New Parent Support Program is easy to join, available at your installation and has services available at no cost to you – which is great considering how much of your budget now goes toward diapers…and laundry detergent.

The program invites you to a network of support that can guide you through frustrating days, tough periods, like deployments or moves, and help you crack the code of your baby’s developmental needs. Through the program, you can participate in prenatal and parenting classes near you, playgroups that offer social interaction for you and your growing child, health care referrals if necessary and you may even be able to take advantage of their home visitation service which allows you one-on-one support for your specific concerns, like breastfeeding, sleeping, behavior management and more.

No amount of forward planning can fully prepare a new parent for life after a baby arrives. You can stock up on the best brand of bottles, only to have your child hate them. The diapers with the best reviews can cause a rash to spring up on your little one’s rump. And everything you decided to do pre-parenthood might fly out the window when you’re in the thick of it. It’s OK to be confused. It’s OK to be overwhelmed. It’s OK to realize occasionally that the thing that smells like spit up is your own shirt. And, most importantly, it’s OK to ask for help when you need it.

May 092014
 
Kristi

Kristi

Let’s address an especially awkward social situation: the inside joke. I’ve been wrapped up in many a great conversation only to have person A say some perfectly random word to person B which causes them both to erupt with laughter. As person C in this scenario, I respond by:

  1. Giggling along in hopes that they won’t notice that I’m not part of their memory
  2. Acting like I didn’t hear what they were talking about
  3. Checking my phone
  4. Pretending to swat at an imaginary bug (bonus points if there is an assist from an actual insect)

None of these responses is particularly effective, but sometimes the best thing you can do is tread water to stay afloat and tie yourself back into the conversation on the next topic.

I doubt I’ve heard the last of the infamous inside joke. Bouncing around the country, or even the world – I can only imagine the confusion of an inside joke in a foreign language – makes for missing out on a lot of inside joke-worthy moments. So, when the opportunity presents itself that we, military spouses, can all share in an inside joke that we all “get,” we should embrace it and laugh together. And when non-military spouses stare and wonder what in the world was so funny, let’s just sputter out between our phrases of laughter, “You…just…had…to…be…there.”

  1. PCS, TDY, MOS, CO, XO, TAD, PT, PFT, PRT, OPSEC, etc. Maybe you laugh along watching people try to decode these acronyms, or maybe you laugh along nervously in hopes that no one asks you what these really mean.
  2. The loaded question, “Where are you from?” We can’t help but laugh, and it’s a great way to kill some time while we wait for you to pull up a chair.
  3. Lingering inventory stickers are not only something to laugh at, but they can also become a source of family fun in a pinch. Who can find the oldest sticker, or which move was this from? Sounds fun, right?
  4. Flight suits require the sniff test before wearing. I can’t think of another situation where that is not only acceptable, but the norm.
  5. Shopping sprees at the uniform shop are big deals. My husband gently broke the news to me that he needs to spend some serious cash on new socks. I know dear; I do your laundry. Why don’t you do me a favor and buy a whole new batch that all match!
  6. Our service members wear the same thing nearly every day, but produce the most dirty laundry. Insert irritated laughter here.
  7. Order envy must be real. Why am I getting stir crazy and borderline jealous of people moving the year before us? In this case, laughing at myself is required.
  8. The mystery box that moves with us each tour, but is never unpacked is not only a funny family quirk, but it may just qualify as an heirloom at this point.
  9. Phone numbers and addresses change so frequently that I often take a moment’s pause before reciting them. To a civilian, I probably seem a little spacy, but it takes a while to sift through all those numbers.
  10. Dress up for military kids involves a sharp uniform, a cover and a backpack bigger than they are.
  11. Customs forms are probably the biggest inside joke of all time. I fill mine out according to the snowflake policy – no two ever look the same. But, it’s all fun and games until you get stuck in line behind someone at the post office who’s never heard of them.
  12. First names, I’m sure my husband’s colleagues have them, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what they are.
  13. The Internet went berserk the day the Marine Corps brought back rolled sleeves. That wouldn’t be cause for celebration anywhere else.
  14. The commissary is closed on Mondays, but we’ve all shown up with grocery list in hand at least once. It’s never funny at the time, but we always laugh about it later.
  15. Dinner is cold, again because our service members are unexpectedly late, again. We only laugh because it wasn’t unexpected to us. We knew it; we always know.
  16. A familiar face around town is usually an exciting chance meeting, until we realize the person we “recognize” is from a different city, in a different state.
  17. Kids can say some hilarious things. My son has started responding to my instructions with: “Aye, aye, captain.” How can you do anything but laugh when a 3-year-old says that?

Nervous laughter, belly laughs, lols, LOLs or a contagious case of the giggles — it doesn’t matter how we laugh or why as long as we remember never to take military life (or ourselves) too seriously.

All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.