Zoom In: The Best Deployment Advice I’ve Been Given

Zoom In

Deployment is hard. It’s messy. It’s unnerving and overwhelming. It’s chaos and calamity wrapped up in the ever changing emotions of kids and parents alike. It’s not for the faint of heart. Or maybe it is. We don’t have a say, you know. Whether you’re strong or not- here it is. The big D and I don’t mean Dallas; I mean Deployment. When I think about it and I when I began to prep for it, I didn’t know where to start with young kids. So, I reached out to great friends who’d done it before many times over. Hands down the best advice I was given before deployment (by several friends said in different ways) was: Zoom in.

When you step back and look at deployment as a whole, it’s a lot to take in. Too much to take in. When you think about the birthdays, the holidays, the kindergarten graduations, and weekends that will be missed it’s enough to due you in all together. When you zoom out and try to guess how your kids will respond to the missed soccer games and movie nights for months on end, or how you’re going to hold their hearts well during all that time apart, well you’ve just sunk your ship without ever leaving the harbor. It’s too great a burden and weight to bear at once.

“Try to Zoom in,” my friend Meredith told me. Focus on each day at a time. You don’t have to worry about the entire 9 months at once. Instead, focus on that day’s trials, triumphs, and even blunders. And then go to bed and wake up and do it all again the next day.

One day. You can do anything for one day.

But don’t just zoom in on time. Zoom in on your kids. Zoom in on who they are and what they need and how both of those realities may seem different from day to day during deployment. My kids reacted in the exact ways I thought they would when it came to deployment on some days. On other days they reacted the exact opposite of how I thought they would. If I had spent my effort zoomed out on the looming dread of the bad days stretching across all 9 months of deployment, I would have missed the good ones. The days where my kindergartener chose to take deep breaths with me and then bravely walk into school even though she wanted to stay and cry in my arms all day. The days when my 1st grader told me he was thankful his dad is a soldier even though he’d been struggling with anger at the Army for sending his dad away.

Zoom in on the good. Celebrate and celebrate big. We went for ice cream once a week to celebrate another week down. Typically, I am not a once-a-week-ice-cream-mom. But I wanted to celebrate our count down and the time ticking down to their dad’s return. Award ceremonies became a big deal. I could feel the tension of them looking into the crowd, so glad I was there, but missing their dad at the same time. So, I took a million photos and my oooh’s and ahhh’s knocked them off their feet with admiration. Never was I more impressed with them than when their dad was gone and I was their only cheerleader. We put on parties for stuffed animals, did dress up for Bible stories and just because. We danced in the kitchen and sometimes *gasp* we stayed up late. I wanted them to know that even in the midst of missing our favorite guy, there were still good things all around us, and happening all the time. If I had zoomed out on all the hard things, we might have missed them.

Zooming in does not mean running from or ignoring the hardness of deployment. Zoom in on the hard, too. Sit in the loneliness. Acknowledge the wretchedness of a fallen world full of wars where soldiers have to deploy. Hold them close in their tears and let them feel the weight of what and who they’re missing. The average deployment is anywhere from 6-9 months. I do think that stepping back and trying to take in the entirety of all of those difficult moments you’ll experience over close to a year is too much. But zooming in on each moment and feeling them with your kids in real time is so useful and so necessary. And at the end there’s always a reminder: this is going to end. We just have to hold on together for right now. And next time we’ll hold on together again. But in the moment, all zoomed in, you remind them, and yourself, that it’s not going to be like this forever.

You can do anything for a day. Even if that day is like groundhog day where you care for everyone in your house alone, load the dishwasher alone, fold laundry alone, and go to bed alone. On repeat. Every day. For 9 months. One day at a time. Even if that day is terrible, they won’t all be. Even stomach bugs aren’t going to last an entire deployment. You can clean the puke up, make it to tomorrow, and start again. So, if you’re looking at a deployment, or even if you’re smack in the middle of one, zoom in. Take a breath like a kindergartener not wanting to leave their mom. And then turn and walk into your day. And in a few months you can all look back and remember both the hard and the good. Then you can sit in overwhelming thankfulness that it wasn’t like that forever.

For famlies facing deployment, we hope you find our guides useful resources:

Guide to Deployment for Spouses

Guide to Deployment for Children

Guide to Deployment for Extended Family Members