As a military officer, the title of this blog entry is relatively counter intuitive. In many ways, we are taught to focus on the destination (or mission end state) rather than how to get there. Significant planning goes into every mission with the commander’s intent driving the planning process towards the desired end state. But once on a mission, the simple directive is to accomplish the mission. It’s only with experience you begin to anticipate some of the significant events that could occur during a mission and minimize the impacts to the best of your ability. That being the case, the purpose, key tasks and end state which combine to make the commander’s intent, keep the organization headed in the right direction despite any distractions.
This line of thinking does not necessarily work well in our most important job: parenting. I’ve been fortunate to have some time off the past month and a half during our recent Permanent Change of Station (PCS) from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) to Ft. Bliss, TX. With an impending deployment and a May 13th report date, we were committed to making the most of our time together as a family. I’ve never been to as many zoos, bounce houses, trampoline parks, and children’s museums as I had this past month. It was incredible and I would not trade that time for anything.
I signed out of JBLM on April 13th, put my family on an airplane on April 14th, and started the 2,100 mile journey to Ft. Worth, Texas April 15th where we would start our leave together. We continued for about a week in Georgetown, then continued West to El Paso to in-process the installation, start house-hunting and finish pre-deployment requirements while camping out on the fourth floor of the Residence Inn. As you can imagine, 17 days in a hotel had its fair share of challenges. Yet the memories we made during that time was well worth it. After completing all requirements, we continued on to Tucson, AZ where Danielle and the kids (and Bowie) will remain during the deployment until on-post housing is available.
We spent the majority of the time off at home or at the neighborhood splash pad, pool or multitude of playgrounds. Yet, I had to continually fight the tendency to get to whatever specific event we were doing that day, rather than enjoying the time and memories happening along the way: Our daughter learning to ride a straddle bike while getting distracted pointing out multiple neighborhood pets or saguaro, smelling the desert flowers, asking about this or that, or our son toddling behind and pointing out every “ball!” then throwing the ball, sometimes into the street for Danielle or me to chase down.
All these events initially stirred something in me because it either slowed down or distracted our advance towards the end state – the splash pad, pool, or playground, inevitably delaying our departure from said location, which impacted our ability to eat lunch or dinner on time, which impacted our ability to start and finish bed time routine on time, which impacted out ability to finally spend some alone time as a couple.
The times I struggled with enjoying the journey, if not solved during the day, I addressed it that night, and resolved to do it better the next day. When I did this, it gave me a greater appreciation for the little milestones for which I was present, the cues into what made my kids tick, their interests and desires magnified while en route to the event we were conducting for the day. It’s short, it taught me the value of the journey en route to the destination.
If we are not careful and remain too focused on the destination, we will miss key insights into our children and influential milestones only observable when physically present. Time is our only non-renewable resource and our children’s seasons of growth go so quickly. When life events like a deployment or work trip make it impossible to enjoy those seasons in person, we risk looking back wishing we had engaged our family more and invested in quality time over quantity time.
I cannot overstate the value and gratitude I feel for the time off before this deployment and the memories made during that time. We made the most of our available time together and solidified quality time. Our smart phone pictures, videos and polaroids captured special moments from our vacation—most of which were from the journey, not the destination.
The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.
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