By now, you have witnessed your spouse survive their first Chief season as a selectee and then as a Chief. There they go, strutting around in their Khakis, a color that by definition screams “Jake from State Farm”, but somehow transcends into a formidable symbol of strength and respect when it’s in the Navy.
After a few years, some of the luster of wearing anchors can fade a bit as your Chief gets into the thick of their job, and has been “tried and tested” many times over, for better results or worse. Having a spouse in the Chief’s mess also means that while you indeed don’t wear the anchors, you are expected to be on board with many yearly activities, or understanding if your spouse has to be home late for a DRB or Captain’s Mast. **Explanation to the Civilian reader, a Captain’s Mast is an invitation to the S.S. “Oh Shit!” show for a sailor who has broken some important rules.
If you have an inexplicable eye twitch that seems to begin around the beginning of July every year, you have probably weathered quite a few seasons, mentally packing away summer memory making with the family, like pool noodles into the garage. You will be tired of your parents asking you “Are you going to make it to our annual Family Reunion in August? I sure hope you All are going to be there this time.”
I’m not just talking to you dear seasoned spouse, but to the salty one in the corner, to which Chief Season has become a Four letter word in your household, where Summer calendars are divided into “Before Season” and “After the Fall”.
As we have all come to realize by now, Chief Season, or CPO 365 is going to happen every year and while as military spouses, we may not have much say in which direction the Navy navigates us, we can adjust our sails to make it a smoother ride for all concerned. Here are some tips to do just that:
1. The Longitude and Latitude of Attitude– How you speak about season and to new selectee spouses can leave long-lasting memories. Try to keep it positive.
Not everyone’s spouse had a Season they expected to have, or maybe even felt they deserved. There are numerous factors that go into a “Successful Season”; some of which is controlled by the Chief’s Mess, and some by the selectees and how much they take to heart what is being impressed upon them. Maybe, like my spouse, they returned home from the “Etch-A-Sketch” summer deployment, and due to a flood on the East Coast, the results were pushed back another week, giving them 5 instead of 6 weeks and she had to hit the ground running . Another Fine Navy Day!
When it comes time for the next group of selectees to come forward and face their 5-6 weeks of Induction, we need to treat it as a clean slate and not poison the waters for the brand new selectee spouses. No new spouse is going to want to hear about your hubby’s “Season horror stories from Hell”. First, it will scare the bejeezus out of them, and second, their spouse’s experience is going to be a different set of circumstances with different Chiefs and personalities rotating in and out. We may think we know what goes on during season, but there is much that isn’t discussed for good reason!
2. Like a good magician, don’t reveal too much.
When speaking to other selectee spouses, sometimes we know more than maybe we should. That’s normal. Chiefs vent too and sometimes they explain parts of the process to us (after their season and they are speaking in coherent sentences again.) But we don’t need to share the process with other selectee spouses in order to be supportive to them. What they need first and foremost is to be reassured they can trust in the process and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Each portion of being tested has a unique purpose to build a strong Chief. (See “Dear Navy Spouse” http://bit.ly/2aLwauC for reference)
3. To Every Season, learn, learn learn.
Last Year’s Selectee will be this year’s “Ah Ha!” moment where it all clicks. Enjoy their smuggery. No matter who the selectees are, or how many, don’t be surprised when your first year Chief comes home with “I can’t believe how much these selectees DON’T KNOW! I was telling them X, then Y, and Z, but they were going in circles!……” Get ready to listen to a whole monologue of sage wisdom, full of hifalutin proclamations about how they were Never this clueless ….. Smile and nod, and pour and new glass of wine.
Every year it surprises me how many new epiphanies or new realizations my wife comes away with after each consecutive season. There are always the selectees that are favored to do well, and ones that need more work, but there is a pride and a special bond within the Chief’s Mess the last grueling night before acceptance that is nothing short of a Rite of Passage.
4. Be the friend you wished you had during Season
This one is really personal to me. My wife’s Season experience had the added uniqueness of being under DADT, which meant that no one was supposed to know about my existence. I never did a “meet and greet”, or received any feedback on what was happening and what to expect. I was thankful to one spouse who did hear of me, and were able to speak over the phone. Together we commiserated and questioned “What are they doing to make my baby cry?”. After DADT was repealed, and I was able to be acknowledged as a “legit mil spouse”, I made a promise to myself that I would do all I could to reach out to other new spouses.
In recent years, I have seen many symbolic and warm and welcoming gifts given to the new selectee spouses. Phone numbers are exchanged and Facebook pages are shared to keep the communication open.
Most importantly, when that anxious text comes in, or that desperate (Maybe a little late) phone call rings, I have full confidence that a Chief spouse is going to take that call and listen, while nodding to the memory of their own experience. She will quell the anxious caller with calm reassurance. He will cite a funny story to uplift the mood of desperation. Together, these mil spouses will bond over the unique experience that only Navy enlisted and their families know.
4. Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys.
It happens. You are getting ready for the annual “Meet and Greet” and meet up with that one spouse with a perpetual Grudge Match with Season (Not just salty, but full of barnacles). It ruined their summer when her spouse was chosen, or they had tickets to Paris when his spouse was selected and they never really got over it.
I get it. There are many times in my spouse’s career where our carefully laid plans were blown out of the water faster than I could say “You sunk My Battleship!”, but holding onto that will not only sour all our future years as a military spouse, but also sours my spouse’s experience about their season.
Think of the most fulfilling experience you have achieved: an important promotion in your career, running a marathon, or any area you shine brightest. Would you really want to look to your left during your monumental moment and see your spouse sulking in the corner, rolling their eyes, or texting you that the baby just had a blowout? Take care of yourself, take all the time you need to process, but find a way to make peace with it. You’re going to see it again next year!
5. Go to the Family Reunion If you have an opportunity to go visit family and friends, then do it! Enjoy your margaritas by the lake or beach, watch the kids play with the cousins they barely get to see, and rehearse with your sisters that Spice Girls routine you used to do together. Summer is almost over and the kids will be back in school. Revel in this moment if it keeps you sane during season. No Judgement.