- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hi Ms. Vicki,

My brother and his wife are both in the Army and both of them will deploy in January. They have been deployed a few times, but this is the first time both will be deployed at the same time.

I must admit I have some hang-ups about both parents being in the military, especially today. I think one of them should have a different career for the sake of the children. It’s hard enough on the children having one parent who is deployed, let alone both of them.

Well, my husband and I are going to take care of my brother’s three children, who are good kids. My parents want to help, but they can’t take on the responsibility because of their age and health. I have no problem doing this for my brother and his children.

The problem is with my brother and his wife. They are raising little super kids who are in every activity under the sun. They play football, basketball and soccer, take piano lessons and karate lessons, sing in the church choir, are on the youth usher board, participate in liturgical dancing and Scouting, and the list goes on and on and on.

This is ridiculous. I have no problem with keeping them active in some extracurricular activities and some church activities, but this is too much. I will have to draw the line somewhere because there is no way I’m going to run around with three children like we are contestants in “The Amazing Race.” I would be crazy, and there’s no way my husband and I could keep up such a schedule.

My brother and his wife are making a list of all of the kids’ activities and contact people for us to start getting accustomed to our new daily schedules. I don’t want to be rude, but I’m trying to find a way to let them know that schedule will have to decrease tremendously. Besides, we can’t afford the gas money and the wear and tear on our vehicles to keep up with this.

Ms. Vicki, I love my brother and my sister-in-law, but how do I tell them I will care for their children but their schedule is a no go? Thank you for letting me vent. — I Want Quality Time With the Super Kids

Dear Super Kids,

You are stepping up in a big way, caring for your brother’s children while he and his wife are both deployed. This is a commendable and admirable gesture on the part of your family. Caring for your brother’s children must be a family effort. Trust me, the children will need all the support they can get.

Your brother and sister-in-law obviously value keeping their children busy. Having extracurricular activities helps build self-esteem and confidence, which is important. Conversely, I agree with you that spending quality time with them will be important. Many activities doesn’t necessarily equate to quality, it only means “busy.”

Here’s the deal, everyone involved should start meeting and talking about caring for the children before the deployment. You should involve school personnel, including their teachers, counselors, etc. The school may have deployment support services available to help the children.

It’s important to hear your brother and sister-in-law’s points of view, and it’s important for them to listen and hear you, too. Most important, you must listen to their children and your children.

Your schedules may not include time for you to continue with your nieces and nephews’ current schedules, and that’s OK. Everyone should come together and strategize ways for his children to keep some of their activities, but most of all, strive for normalcy, support and quality care for them.

You and your family are giving in a big way, but your brother and sister-in-law are, too. I’m sure they are nervous and anxious because they both will be deployed.

It’s important that you build a network of support to help you and everyone involved. Reach out to trusted family and friends, seek out spiritual support, try to exercise often — even if it’s just walking 30 minutes a day — and get plenty of rest. Keep in touch and let me know how everyone is doing.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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