By Kristin Borg
Here we go again… it’s PCS season. It’s where all of us military families anticipate “where are we moving next”. We got our golden ticket (a.k.a. orders) and are heading slightly north from MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida to Ft. Stewart in Hinesville, GA. After 20 years of doing this Army life I have to admit it’s a fun-yet-chaotic whirlwind of “what’s next?” every two years. It’s a life of not planning, and going with your Plan Z instead of Plan A.
I’ve gone from wearing UGGs and winter gear year ‘round to wearing flip flops and swimsuits in the same year. As an adult, I comprehend the challenges and setbacks and I can prepare for the unknown. Yes, I prepare for the unknown… keeping those UGGs in a place I know close by but also keeping those flip flops out for everyday use. What about our military kids? Again, as an adult this military life is challenging. Can you imagine what our children go through? How can we set them up for success?
My son, Miles, is almost 11 years old. He is in 5th grade, has lived in four states, which is going to be five soon. His dad has been gone nearly five years of his life. He has lived in at least six different homes and attended several different schools. People have come and gone throughout his life constantly. Our current living situation is one where Dad is in Washington, DC finishing up a 10-month assignment while we stayed back in Tampa to keep Miles in his routine as long as possible and avoid moving him three times in less than a year. Miles also has low-functioning autism and has the developmental age of a four-year-old. Explaining and preparing a child, especially a special needs kiddo, for yet another move can be one of the most challenging aspects of a PCS.
It’s only a few months until we take off again, so I need to spend time piecing together our life in a state I’ve never lived in. Where do I start? The military wife mafia — yes, there are secret groups of military wives for every duty station and we band together providing each other with tidbits of information from our experiences. My immediate checklist of questions to the mafia:
- Where do I live/what are our housing options and which ones are the good/bad of the base and surrounding areas?
- Do you have any therapy services references (calling several places and getting waitlist times, etc.)?
- What are the schools in the area (discussing IEPs and placements)?
Those three items above are what we will start building our life around. My goal as Miles’ mom is to set him up for success as fast as possible. Our next step is to continue hobbies and activities he enjoys to make his transition smoother. We know Miles loves beaches, dog parks, eating ice cream, adventuring, shopping and exploring. We’re fortunate we won’t be too far from a beach or other areas to explore, like Savannah. Focusing him on activities he enjoys will ensure he can still do things he likes. His two best friends are his dogs, and I’m sure that will provide him with some companionship before he gets into meeting new friends. We’ll definitely hit up parks and take the dogs swimming and give him as much ice cream as needed for those difficult days.
Miles is also very visual and likes photos of his favorite people. We use Shutterfly to create more visual things for him. He’ll carry around anything made with his favorite person on it.
We’ve had pillows made, and recently a memory card game so he can play games with his favorite people. We realized early on that with a “Daddy Doll” he really loved including daddy by bringing his doll around with him. What seemed to be so challenging — having his daddy gone — turned into something positive as he created memories with his doll. That was a big learning moment for me, that my husband can still create memories even though he’s not here. So we just elaborated on that idea and built a room full of his favorite things and people. We have quite the collection of homemade pillows and Shutterfly books filled with photos to look back on. This will definitely be a tool we’ll use in learning about memories and that we can build on as we’re making new ones in our new place.
There are things I know that will take more time, such as a haircut place or a church with a special needs ministry. We take a 40-minute drive just to go to “his lady” (Samira) for his special haircut at Cookie Cutters in Clearwater. They specialize in special needs haircuts. Samira knows his favorite shows, toys and even his Panera Bread Mac and Cheese routine right after the haircut. Finding another Samira will be difficult, but I have hope.
Lastly, finding the right church that has a special needs ministry is a top priority. We had to be flexible in our search at MacDill, so we switched denominations and drove 35 minutes every Sunday to go to Bay Hope Church in Lutz. We have had the most support from our church as we have found babysitters to lifelong friendships and I’ll be looking to re-create all of that. Not such an easy task as one would think… so that will take some time.
I’m currently in full-on planning mode, researching and gathering intel from all the social media outlets I can. The main thing I know how to do is try to keep Miles involved in everything. From picking out his room, to where his bed goes and keeping a consistent routine. And I know I will have to be there and comfort him more when he asks for his friends and favorite people that he will no longer see on a daily basis. I will spend time making Shutterfly books of his favorite people and if needed we will FaceTime. I know that it’ll take time to get situated. And once I do… here comes another set of orders and it’s time to move again.
About Kristin Borg
Kristin is an Army wife of 18 years and the mom of a young son. Her family has two dogs and she likes to spend her time at dog parks and paddle boarding. You can follow her adventures with having a son on the spectrum on Facebook at Smiles for Miles.
More PCS and Military Family Insights:
Solutions for Your Military Family
Life Insurance, Wealth Management, Home Mortgages, Survivor Services, and more. Learn more about AAFMAA.