August 08, 2011
By Jacey Eckhart
I used to claim that after deployment our family was like a merry-go-round. We had to slow the “ride” so that Brad could jump back on. Brad scoffs at that now. “This is no merry-go-round,” he snarled. “This is the Scrambler!”
The guy has got sumpin’ there. For those of you who did not grow up at King’s Island, the Scrambler is that horrible amusement park ride that twirls you in two directions as once, whonking your entire group from one side of the car to the other, snatching you back from the edge the moment you think you are getting somewhere.
Geez, just thinking about it makes me long for some Tums for my tummy.
Brad, too. So we started talking it out, trying to figure out how to slow the Scrambler down long enough for Brad to jump back on, especially when he is a geographic bachelor and only comes home on weekends.
We quickly discovered what so many military families already know: there IS no slowing the Scrambler. There is no catching up with it mid-stream. There is no stop to the onslaught of deadlines and traffic and summer jobs and shipyard schedules and family visits and summer reading assignments and ever-ripening tomatoes and the chase of getting the nine-year-old off the couch with video games and the 17 –year-old off the couch with his new girlfriend.
“Maybe we are on the wrong ride,” I suggested.
“Maybe we should get rid of the couch,” Brad replied. “Then again, maybe we need to remember that it is only a two minute ride. We just gotta be better prepared.”
And he is right. In military life, a family’s turn on the Scrambler really is a temporary thing. So what could we do temporarily to prevent the dizziness and nausea and hot distemper that come with riding this ride? We already knew that the only way to combat the chaos of military life was to figure out systems and then stick to them. Clearly, the system that used to work in our merry-go-round days were not going to work here.
“I just wish the weekend was longer,” Brad sighed.
And that’s when I remembered reading in one of those lady mags that
you should divide your weekend into six parts--Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening and Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening. Each part of the weekend was supposed to be assigned only one task. Which was a pretty good suggestion. For civilians.
I proposed to Brad that our military weekend had to be different, longer, more structured. It ought to have eight parts. When the present weekend must make up for all those missed weekends of deployment, it needs eight parts. So we added Thursday night and Friday night to the weekend. Thursday night was our planning night to talk on the phone about what was going on in the family and what needed to happen on the weekend as well as what we wanted to happen on the weekend. Then Friday night was a designated nap night and late dinner. Then each of the other six parts had it’s own purpose.
Somehow just having the plan made me feel better. Not quite back on the merry-go-round. Not exactly caught up in the beauty of the carousel. But now we are back in the park. Riding all the rides. And doing exactly what we are meant to be doing.
Jacey Eckhart is a military life consultant in Washington, DC. She is the author of "The Homefront Club" and the voice behind the award-winning CD "These Boots." Facebook Jacey or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.