The Purple Wig: Spicing up Deployment Doldrums
by Jennifer McDonald
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
“What does Mom have onher head??” one of my children shrieked.
I turned to look at them, flipped my purple locks over my shoulder, and continued on to the laundry room as if nothing were amiss. Peals of laughter followed, and my four kids scrambled after me, begging to try on the wig themselves. The most surprising part of this little scene? My husband had recently left for a deployment to Baghdad, and our spirits had been down. Laughter helped us let go of the worry and anxiety for a few precious moments.
The week before, we had all moped around with that empty feeling that deployed family members know all too well. It didn’t seem as if we could give ourselves permission to think about anything but their Dad and what was going on “over there.” The months ahead seemed to stretch out endlessly.
I wasn’t sure how to get us out of this funk, and prayed for the Lord’s direction. One evening, while driving my children to their Awana group, I passed a “party store” downtown. Suddenly, an idea came to me, and after I dropped the kids off, I went back to that store. I grabbed some colored wigs, funny glasses, and even a big nose and mustache. I put my stash away when we got home, and could not wait for what came next.
The next day, I put on a big purple foil wig, and nonchalantly strolled through the living room, carrying a laundry basket. My children were sprawled on the floor watching TV, and didn’t even react. The funniest part about it was that I had to make three passes through the room before anyone noticed! But it broke up some of the tension, and we all laughed together.
Over the following months, I would periodically pull another wig or pair of goofy glasses out of my bag, and turn up unexpectedly with the newest “get-up.” It became quite a game, with them trying to guess what would come next, and me having a ball attempting to surprise them. It ended up being a special memory of that time, and I am thankful that I was open to God’s leading about purposefully adding in some light-hearted moments.
Our family has now been through several deployments, and we’ve learned a few things along the way. It may seem incongruous to have fun while your spouse is deployed, but my husband has told me that he likes to think about his family back at home, still making memories and enjoying life. I have a feeling this is true for others, as well. As difficult as it is to carry on, it truly is the healthiest thing we can do.
So… how to add some lightness to such a trying time?
Have a themed day:
We’ve declared pajama days, ice cream days, or all-day-movie days. Since we homeschool, it’s a little easier for us to declare a special day now and then. But even if your kids are in school, you can do this on a weekend! Along with the pajama theme, eat only breakfast foods for all your meals that day. I promise you, your kids will think you’re the coolest!
Do something surprising:
Interrupt the hum-drum, daily routine with a little unexpected treat now and then, even if it’s something simple like stopping at the park or for ice cream, or renting a movie and staying up later than normal. I assure you that walking through the room with a crazy wig atop your head will surprise your kids and get them laughing! It’s those little unexpected moments here and there that can lift all of your spirits, and once you get in the habit, you’ll begin to look for ways to surprise your children.
Even when you don’t feel like it, try to stay connected to your church body. You need them, but they also need you. Being fed from God’s Word and praying with other believers can get your eyes off your own problems. Sharing your burden with your church body will definitely lighten the load.
God is faithful to walk through every season with us, each step of the way. I completely understand how overwhelming deployments can be, and how hard it is to get out of the worried and stressed mindset for even just a moment. But God is so creative! I believe that if you pray and seek God’s guidance, He will give you some specific ideas to help “lighten up” your family during the months of separation. It might even include a purple wig!
About the Author:
Jennifer McDonald has written for various publications including the Rosetta Stone website, Home School Enrichment, Home Educating Family, Crosswalk.com, and the upcoming books Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotionals for Tough Times and Fighting Fear: Winning the Battle at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle. She’s been married to her amazing Air Force husband for 23 years, and they are the parents of four busy teenagers. They’ve lived all over the world from the Pacific to Europe, and are currently stationed in Washington, D.C. Find her at http://www.just-jen.net/ and on Twitter as jenmcdonald88.