Prepare and pack, haul, be vigilant, and just make it home…so you can prepare for the next outing.
Never did I think about parenting while packed in a dark, dusty corner of a 7-ton truck, or while hauling fifty plus pounds of body armor, ammunition, and gear. But the lessons of an infantry deployment are vast and penetrate every aspect of life.
Saturday morning. Father’s day weekend. Operation Trolley Ride with Chase from Paw Patrol. Recon of the location yields mixed results, but intelligence is rarely reliable in this austere environment. Or maybe I just didn’t read the whole Facebook event post that mentioned we would need reservations. But what do we do? We adapt and overcome. Add in some time at the train museum and the promise of a pizza lunch, and we’ll pull through. We will engage Chase and the trolley ride a couple hours behind schedule, but it will be done. However, this operation was a bit special. My wife’s hair was out of regulations and she was at the salon. Major Daddy was in sole command of this three man team. Actually, man, boy, and baby girl in today’s integrated and progressive force.
PREPARE AND PACK
Guess who just got a new mini-van? This guy. And it’s time to load it up. But what do we take? That’s what proper planning is for.
Rule #1 — If you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Get eyes on your gear.
Review your plans, and break them up into sections. Decide what gear you need during each step and get a direct visual on everything. Neatly pack it, putting what you would need last in first. Create easy access to items you need rapid access too. You don’t want to unpack your whole bag just to get the tissues at the bottom when you inevitably need to wipe a snotty nose.
After a couple hours of chasing my son throughout the museum, which is wonderfully kid friendly and rarely busy, I was finally able to wrangle him into a walk over the bridge to the mall. It’s really a nice way to enjoy the free museums and grab some food and a break from the sun. But two year old legs don’t move very quickly, and after running through the museum and getting hungry, the inevitable, “Daddy, I want up” is sure to come soon. So there I am, with a toddler on my shoulders, a beefed up diaper bag around my neck and one hand pushing a stroller with a chunky little baby and snacks, up a ramp for what might honestly be a quarter mile of wooden planks. I found myself reminiscing of the days we hauled a week’s worth of food and water, body armor and ammunition, hoping someone would shoot at us just so we could stop walking for a minute. Comparatively, this was cake. I told myself so and soaked up the pain in my traps knowing that it would be over in minutes as opposed to days.
Pizza and the trolley ride were both successful. Now it’s time to get home. Planning to return is just as important as getting to and executing the mission. I’ve been in situations where we had extended patrols, not had enough water or food or cold gear. Not fun. Make sure you don’t get so focused on the ramp up that you don’t get your people back smoothly. Because that is all you’ll remember.
Once your kids are strapped in and you’re on the road, a crying baby or frustrated toddler makes for a hellish ride. If you play your cards right, you can have a respite from vigilance and enjoy a nice, peaceful ride home. The toddler has a bag of goldfish and the baby has a bottle she can handle. With any luck, they’ll both have happy tummies and be dozing within minutes, which will save you from chasing around nap-less demon seeds for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
HOME and PREP
Anyone on the front lines knows that getting home is just the first step. You may need to deploy a team out minutes later, but you’ve just spent hours or days hauling your gear through who knows what kind of punishing ordeal. You set down your weapon, make sure it’s stored safely, and assess its condition along with getting an eye on your equipment and replenishing everything you used. Lay it out, clean it out, and make sure that you have what you need, packed and ready to go in the event a sudden play date presents itself. And if it has been awhile since you’ve opened up your gear, even if you have not dipped into it for weeks, you need to regularly review its contents. Kids grow, change diaper size, seasons change, and snacks go bad. You don’t want to be caught on a Koala Changing Station putting a size five butt in a size three diaper.
Throughout Greek mythology, heroes like Agamemnon and Hercules, have a history of returning home from years of battle, not knowing how to aclimate to life as a civilian. The intoxicating sense of invincibility you get from surviving those types of ordeals can make it hard to leave behind. What works in one world does not necessarily work in another, and those are two very different worlds. Maybe taking pieces of that life of glory and integrating them in a useful manner can help keep a piece of that alive while leaving what could be damaging parts of that way of life where they need to stay.