Deployment Series: I Love Technology
No, I’m not talking about the song from Kip and Lafawnduh’s wedding at the end of Napoleon Dynamite, I’m talking about the miracle of communication through technology during military deployments in this second installment of the monthly Deployment Series. If you missed the series intro, check it out here.
Oh yeah, military spouses LOVE us some technology. Hand-written letters and care packages are wonderful ways to show our love and support to a deployed spouse, but there’s just something about the instantaneous nature of connecting face to face using technology.
Our phones are glued to our hips as our service members could call at any time, day or night, especially with time zone differences. Who knows when their boat is pulling into port or when they’ll have a few minutes to spare with good Wi-fi. There is no way we’ll risk missing a call by putting our phones down. #sorrynotsorry
Every deployment situation is different, I get that. And the frequency and quality of communication will depend on a number of factors, including: branch of service, deployment location, mission, and of course, Wi-fi situation.
Have you seen that Modern Family episode when Phil is out of town during Alex’s graduation party and he’s determined not to miss it, so uses an Ipad Robot to join the party via Skype? You know, Robot Phil? What military family in recent years hasn’t enjoyed the miracle of video chats with their deployed loved one? It’s a downright luxury, offering a way to connect in your own living room while they are serving thousands of miles away.
Thanks to Facebook Messenger video calling, my husband was able to join his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party while he was deployed in Afghanistan. What’s not to love, right?
But, wait. Could there be a flip side to it? You bet.
I can’t tell you how many times out of exasperation of being a single parent to three kids during a deployment, I held up the video screen with my husband’s face and sternly told my kids, “talk to your father.” And if a kid walked away from the phone, he’d say through the screen, “get back here right now. I’m not finished talking to you.” Just like Robot Phil.
I hadn’t altered my parenting style to fit the deployment. I was so used to playing the dad card at the end of the day when I had had it up to here with the kids’ attitudes. Basically, I was done, and it was time for dad to take over.
Super easy over video chat, right? We didn’t have to miss a beat. Still working as a parenting team. High-five through the phone screen!
Until one day, my husband told me, “You’ve got to stop. This can’t be my only interaction with the kids. It’s not fair that I have to be the disciplinarian while I’m missing out on all the good times and laughs too.”
He was absolutely right.
Reliable Wi-fi had made my deployed husband too accessible and it wasn’t fair to put him in a position of disciplinarian from the other side of the world.
The truth is, deployment often causes both parents to be emotionally and physically exhausted. The deployed parent can’t fix anything, especially while in a mission mind-set, and they don’t need extra emotional burdens piled on them.
Learning to remain calm when video-chatting and deal with behavior issues on my own became essential, and included reaching out for support of close friends and family, even when it was hard to do so.
Kids’ video sessions with their dad were reserved for positive communication and that’s it.
Video chats are truly a gift, as I remember the days of submarine deployments where the only communication was through e-mail and you knew dozens of eyes would also be reading it for security purposes. Remembering to use technology for good, (I love you! Miss you!) and not to burden, is something we can all keep in mind.
Although, I had to laugh when my kids were arguing over Legos and they heard the ring of the video call. They immediately stopped squabbling and I could hear them murmur, “Stop! Dad’s coming!”
Seriously. From the other side of the world. What is it about dads?