As we enter into the holiday season, wreaths will dress doors, lights will be strung and abundant meals will be shared among family and friends. But thousands of military families will be divided, missing loved ones. We’ve been told to expect my husband’s return sometime this holiday season—but that could be anytime from before Thanksgiving to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, depending on who you ask. Whether you have a tiny little one (like we do) or a whole brood of rambunctious munchkins, getting ready to spend the holidays apart doesn’t need to be more emotional or stressful than necessary.
Incorporating a deployed loved one into everyday routines can be difficult—dinner times change, bath time gets abbreviated ... and sometimes a scheduled video chat will get beaten out by a long walk around the neighborhood with a restless baby. The holidays don’t need to fall into the same trap of everyday chaos. A little planning and behind-the-scenes communication can create a memorable and joyful holiday celebration. Here are some tips for keeping your sanity while creating a memorable and enjoyable holiday celebration.
1. Have fun! This is probably one of the most important things to remember—laughing, playing and celebrating shouldn’t make you feel guilty. Enjoy the season; it won’t make the time pass more quickly, but it will be easier to navigate.
2. Have a sense of humor. This goes hand-in-hand with having fun—and should not be overlooked. Whether it's creating a life-size poster version of your missing loved one or celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah (or both!) before your soldier leaves or when they return, don’t be afraid to throw convention out the window and do what works for you and your family.
3. Keep traditions, and make new ones. Following traditions even when missing loved ones can add an element of normalcy to the experience. Always open a present from mom and dad on Christmas Eve? Pull in your life-size poster and open presents together—or better yet try to schedule it around a time your spouse might be able to video chat and share in the giving experience. Having a tough time adjusting or making the holidays work? Don’t be afraid to start new traditions—living room campouts, pancakes for dinner or whatever seems to add a little excitement to holiday festivities.