Right before Lancelot went on his latest trip, he reminded me that the Dark Prince was coming home on Friday. I must have had a blank look on my face because he then reminded me why: Dark Prince's pre-deployment brief the following day. A brief that I would have to attend with my son without my husband.
Looking back, I'm now of the opinion that my husband planned to be out of town so as to avoid the whole nightmare....
For starters, my son is not very skilled in the social graces. Some might even assume that he was raised by wolves. Arriving at the brief, it began.
"Mom, I have to go talk to someone." Me: "Oh, okay, I'll be right here."
This, in case you didn't know, is his way of avoiding even the admittance that he has a mom (let alone introducing her). Nope, not the Dark Prince, he was hatched from an egg.
20 minutes later, I'm still standing in a corner waiting for him to come back. I've already toured the tables containing brochures like "How to help your child with deployment". I didn't take one of those. I want one about "How to survive your child's deployment". They didn't have that one.
We finally go into the theater and sat down. Surprisingly enough, he and I sat with a couple of his friends (that's almost an introduction!!) All of whom looked as thrilled as DP did about having to be there. I could relate. I don't know how many briefs I have been to over the years but I'm darned close to being able to recite verbatim the deployment cycle, the what not to do's, the keep busys, etc. It's like if you fly enough, you can recite (with hand gestures) the airline attendants pre-flight spiel. It's like that. Pre-deployment briefs are a necessary evil, like mammograms, and just as much fun.
5 hours of speakers, 5 hours of powerpoint slides. I glanced over at the DP and he, at one point, was actually holding his eyelids open with his fingers. Pffft...amateur. I'm furiously scribbling down notes because a)I have a few ideas for future posts and b)the command did not supply us with deployment handbooks. That's right...no handbooks to reinforce the death by powerpoint and no handbooks to refer to at a later date. More than a couple people went to the command to let them know about this need and the command seemed genuinely surprised. Handbooks? You all want handbooks?
I like to watch people and when things got particularly boring, I started doing that. I saw me in other faces. I saw the past me who was going to have to be a single parent with very small children. I saw the present me worried over her son's impending deployment and getting aggravated with the brief. I might have even seen a form of the future me in a grandfather who proudly told everyone he met that he had three grandsons and they were all Marines.
At the end of the 5 hours (thank you, Lord!!!) there was a powerpoint slide giving us the contact phone numbers for the remain behind command, the Family Readiness officer and the Key Volunteer Coordinator. That's right, folks, we didn't even get a handout for that information to put on our frig. People got vocal again. Rightly so. The families were then promised that the website, which hasn't been updated in 3 years, would be updated and materials used in the briefs would be made available to us. At a later date. Ever hear of that expression,"holding feet to the fire"? It's very appropriate used here.
If I were a glass half full kind of a girl, I would say that at least the command now understands it fell far short in this brief. I would hope so because there wasn't a soul in the audience who wasn't dead serious about the need for a supporting handbook and an online source for updated information.
To all who face upcoming pre-deployment briefs, I encourage you to bring a notebook and pen. Do not be afraid to ask questions. If there is something that you need to know and it wasn't addressed, LET THEM KNOW. You may not be the only one who needs that information. You're helping out someone else as well as helping yourself.