We Be Ridin’ Solo: Wagon Style

Nicki Ridin Solo

Sometimes I wonder if it’s a blessing or a curse that my husband joined the military later in life. We had the early years of our marriage to grow together into a strong couple, without the interruptions of boot camp, underways, and even deployments. 

In fact, we had been together for 12 years, and married for 6, before he even set foot in the recruiters office. We had experienced the pregnancy and birth of our first child without the craziness of military


 life looming over us.  We had seen good and bad and were always in it together.   

On the flip side, he had his first deployment three years into his first contract.  That all seems pretty normal. By that point, we had already moved for the military 3 times, which is not as normal. What may not be as normal for a first deployment is the fact that we had three young kids at home, two of which are disabled. And to add insult to injury, we were living across the country from our family… during COVID.  We all know that COVID made everything feel out of the ordinary.  

To say that I was a bundle of nerves when he finally gave me the dates for deployment may be the understatement of the year!  

ridin solo wagon style

I scoured the internet for tips and tricks on how to survive deployment… especially with three kids 6 and under.

What tools were available to me?  What help was available to me?  How would I be able to maintain my already fleeting sanity?

In my searches into the depths of the internet, I found a stroller wagon.  Turns out it was the one thing that I found to be the most valuable tool for survival.  

You see, my oldest is autistic.  One of his primary behavioral issues is elopement, meaning he loves to run away.  Sometimes he does it because he thinks it’s a game.  Other times he does it because he is overstimulated by his environment.  Either way, I usually have to chase after him.  With two other kids, both younger than him, it’s incredibly difficult to do and an impossible choice to make.  

That’s where the wagon comes in.  While my husband was gone, I could safely transport all three of my kids.  We would go to fun places like the zoo or the aquarium.  We were able to attend some command based events.  When my son got overstimulated, we were able to pull down the sides to cut off some of the sensory input.  It gave him a safe, and known, place to be able to chill out and re regulate.  

But the most important thing our wagon was able to do was it made it possible to get essentials!

If you were in San Diego at any point in the last year or so, you may have seen two women, myself and a friend, rocking our little cart and wagon caravan through Costco.  The kids were safe and secure in their wagon, with a cover, that we affectionately called “The Bubble”.  Safe from COVID, and safe from running away.  This left me with my hands free to grab things that we needed to survive the day to day.  Things like milk, bread, meat… and Oreos, because this mama needed a chocolate fix on the regular.  

Our wagon also helped during one of the toughest parts of our lives: through my daughter’s diagnosis and subsequent medical testing.  She spent quite a bit of time going in and out of the hospital for outpatient tests and procedures over the course of 10 weeks.  The value of having a place for all of her “things” to help her feel safe and comfortable, even when neither of us felt safe or comfortable, is something I can’t put into words.  Our wagon was crucial during this difficult time.  

We use our wagon for fun too!   Trick or treating anyone?  Last year we decorated our wagon to look like a cart of laugh canisters.  I got to be Roz, pushing around the likes of Sulley, Mike, and Boo.  Was it an amazing time?  Yes!  Did we get loads of comments and compliments?  I mean, come on, we were adorable!  Would we have been able to go trick or treating without our wagon?  Absolutely… not! 

While I can say that we would not have survived deployment without our wagon, I can also say that it still gets used regularly.  In fact, we already have big plans for how to use it this Halloween for trick or treating.  While our circumstances have changed some, especially with my husband now home safe from deployment, my son still elopes and my daughter now uses it as a mobility device.  Our wagon is a necessary extension of our family that makes time as a family, especially a military family, possible.