One of my favorite Christmas songs is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” We are currently surviving our fifth deployment, but this will be the first year I will be singing that song with honest feelings behind it. It will be my first Christmas apart from my husband.
Two days before he left for his deployment, he took the Christmas tree down from the attic and put it in a spot that I could reach. As I watched him do this, I had a rush of emotions.
“Oh crap, this Christmas is going to be the worst,” I said aloud. And then a thought flitted through my mind: We won’t even put up a Christmas tree, we will just fly to Hawaii and act like Christmas isn’t even happening! Then I remembered how much my husband hates those big inflatable lawn decorations, and I did a complete 180 in my thinking. We are going all out this Christmas. We will find the biggest Christmas inflatable there is to put in front of our house!
I know, a little dramatic. But so is a deployment.
We’ve had many deployments and he has missed everyone in the family’s birthday, our anniversary, and so many other holidays, but Christmas is different for us. It is one of the few holidays that it is just our family of five together. It won’t be the same with him gone this year; however, we have decided to make the most of it and enjoy the holiday.
How To Enjoy Christmas When Your Spouse is Deployed
I know as military spouses we can get used to missing holidays together. For some it doesn’t bother them at all. It’s just a day. For others, it’s more than just a day. However you feel about it, there are ways to help yourself and your kids celebrate and enjoy the season.
It’s also OK to have a “this sucks” day. Allow for the days of staying in pajamas and talking about how much you miss your spouse, and allow the kids to communicate how much they miss their parent. Those days will happen. But, of course, I would like my kids to have more enjoyable days than sucky days this season.
So as I write this, it is the first week of November, and this has just arrived…
My three kids voted on the 11-foot tall inflatable Christmas Minion. We have decided to go BIG this Christmas.
We will put out every decoration we can find and decorate the crap out of our house. I have warned my neighbors of the possible “tacky” factor around my house this season. Thankfully they are awesome and half of their spouses are deployed with mine, so I most likely won’t be attacked on Facebook for it, ha!
Although we won’t be going to visit grandparents this year for Christmas due to the price of traveling across the country, we would if it was an option. I think being surrounded by family during the holiday season may be the best idea for most people, with or without kids.
If you are staying home and have traditions you do when your spouse is home, don’t skip them. Especially with the kids. When my kids are having fun doing something, they will say “I wish daddy was here,” so I tell them “let’s take a picture, he would love to see you having fun.” I always remind them (and myself) that he wants us to enjoy ourselves even when he’s not around. This definitely includes the holiday season.
Also, it’s OK to let others know that you won’t have your spouse around for the holiday season. Not for the purpose of sympathy, but for the purpose of support. Friends and family love to know when they can be supportive not just for you but also for your deployed spouse. A fellow military spouse reminded me that making others aware that many military families are not together during the holiday season helps bring a deeper level of appreciation for some and a sense of community for others.
How to Help your Deployed Spouse Enjoy Christmas
It is very important to remember that it is also hard for the deployed spouse to be away from his or her family during the holidays.
My husband is an aviator on a ship, so our squadron has done a few things to help our spouses enjoy Christmas time. Our spouses group sent them a box full of Christmas movies, popcorn, hot chocolate and other snacks. We also sent them a small Christmas tree to put up in their ready room. We made ornaments and stuffed personalized stockings to them. My kids and I put a box together and wrapped some small gifts for my husband. We tried to find some silly things to put in the box to make him smile. Part of me thought, won’t this make him miss us even more? However, even though missing someone stinks; at the same time it’s a reminder of how much you love that person. That is a good thing.
It’s also important not to forget the single service members who are deployed during the holiday season. Our squadron does an “adopt a sailor” program. We reach out to our extended friends and family to help each single sailor get adopted. I found that many of my teacher friends loved to help with this because they could get their class involved in making cards and goodie boxes to send out.
Even though having a deployment during Christmas isn’t on anyone’s wish list, in this military life, it’s bound to happen.
Like everything else that is out of our control, we accept it while trying to make the best out of it. So I may have tears in my eyes as I sing Mariah’s song, but it will be while standing in front of an 11-foot Minion and a house that’s lighting up the street!