Chaplain Spouse

White Picket Fences

by L.G. McCary


I don’t know if you’ve checked Instagram or Pinterest recently, but it appears that everyone has got this parenting thing figured out. You can barely scroll without a post about a fancy holiday dinner with extended family or video of Daddy coaching a soccer game.

Blog after blog tells you how to make your family that perfect happy family, complete with halo filter for pictures. Chasing after the idealized family can make anyone panic that they aren’t measuring up, but it’s enough to make a military mama give up in despair.

The painful truth is I cannot give my children most of the things I loved about my childhood. We will never live within thirty minutes of their grandparents and cousins. They will not spend their entire childhood in the same community, putting down deep roots. They will not experience the satisfaction of working hard on a family farm like their father. They won’t have Daddy watching at every awards ceremony, soccer tournament, and choir concert.

Being a military spouse required me to rethink how a family should look because that “should” sent me groping after impossible white picket fences.

I found myself measuring our family by a set of rules that didn’t apply to us. I had to back up, pull out my Bible, and ask God to show me how to give my children what they needed, not what I wished they could have.

I can give them two birthday celebrations: one on their birthday and another when Daddy isn’t deployed or in training. I can send them on Daddy Dates to get donuts or ice cream so they have sweet treats to get them through the long months without him. I can take pictures while they dig into packages of candy, pictures, and books he found while deployed. I can give them memories of visits to historic places and museums, beaches, mountains, deserts, and maybe foreign countries someday.

These are all blessings that other families would envy.

But what they need is for our house to be a safe refuge when everything around them is brand new and intimidating.

They need me to remind them that they have friends all over the world when they are lonely.

They need stories of God’s faithfulness to us going back generations, connecting them to far-flung family.

They need hugs, kisses, and silly jokes.

But most important, they need me to model the resilience and sense of adventure I want to see in them.

My kids bear the weight of being both military kids and pastor’s kids, and I have to show them how to carry it. My joy and obedience will be caught more than taught.

I don’t say this because I’m doing it right. I say it because it is so easy to get it wrong. I can take them on mini-adventures like picking blueberries in Georgia, investigating live tilapia and durian fruit at an Asian market in Maryland, or inhaling “Texas-sized” donuts bigger than your head, but all those things won’t bring joy if they have a grumpy, bored, or bitter Mama who is keeping a mental list of all the things they don’t have.

If I want them to love the life and ministry God has given us, it starts with me loving this life and ministry.

And I do love it. After all, a helicopter practicing drop maneuvers in your backyard is way cooler than a white picket fence.