I am constantly talking to people and clients about launching products, launching new websites, and living in a world of “launch dates” regarding almost everything. It has been years of work but I finally have a launch that I am excited about and am taking the opportunity here within this blog to test-fire what I expect will be the beginning of something great.
For years I have been writing about matters that are pertinent to the emergency management, homeland security, and responder world. I believe I began my first blog in 2005 and since then have seen the publishing of my book “The Definition of Unprecedented”.
Even now I am looking forward to the release of my second emergency management book, From Red Bird to Red Wagons.
Behind the scenes, behind my blogs, interviews, and articles, my wife and I have been creating something amazing and we are finally prepared to take it out on the road and present it to the thousands of families that make up the support structure of today’s responders and emergency management professionals.
If you have followed my blog, read my book, or heard me speak at a conference, you know that I am all about the definition of words. I find great power in words when they are used both correctly and incorrectly.
Let’s look at two of my favorite words:
1. relating to or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific end or goal.
noun: family; plural noun: families/ a group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit.
I want to introduce you to The Tactical Family.
The Tactical Family is not really a program. Brandi and I were both raised by parents that “discovered” parenting as they went along. With the oldest children, there were many mistakes made and as the families grew, they got better and better at the job. I suppose that is the norm with almost any task.
When we became parents, our first attempts were to replicate what we had seen our own parents attempt, but that effort did not last long as we found that our family was different, our lives were different, our living arrangements were different and our schedules were different.
Each parenting program has its own merits, but none fit our family and so, none of them worked. As our youngest children got a little older, we really started to see that we had to get on a path of discovery if we were going to survive being parents, but there were so many obstacles in the way of a unified approach to parenting.
As a responder, my work caused me to leave home for what were sometimes indefinite periods of time. This caused small tears to form in the fabric of our marriage as I would return home to a new “program” or “system” that Brandi had implemented in my absence. I was no longer the hero husband coming home to his family but rather I felt like I was another one of the children that just did not know all the rules. I felt, at times, like I was the new kid in an orphanage.
While this situation completely took away any sense of authority I felt I should possess in my own home, it also angered Brandi because, like the new kid at the orphanage, I suddenly felt like I had to defend my status and would “rebel” against the new rules I was only now learning for the first time.
After a few weeks of arguments and rationalizing decisions, whatever Brandi had implemented was soon turned inside out without ever having been given a chance of success and I would suddenly be spun up and deployed once again. The world of emergency management and frontline response is a wicked one in that it has no respect for family time, scheduled conversations, and date nights.
Within a week or two, I would return home to even more chaos, more anger, more confusion, and more feelings as the last “program” that I had ruined had been turned into a new version of a new “program” that my wife had created to save her sanity in my absence.
Another great negative of being a responder is that there comes moments when you need to be understood and those moments happen rarely in the home. I can give you many examples of this.
Returning from a major hurricane deployment that was rife with chaos, loud noises, confusion and long hours of stress, I just wanted to go to my home and sit until the world stopped spinning so fast. That never happened.
Supper was late every night because I had just been on Eastern time and my family was on Central time. Having been on deployment, timing was important to me and so supper at 6:30 and not 5:30 was “unacceptable! Why could Brandi just not understand?
The kids, excited that daddy was home would gather around me, tugging and pulling all talking at once. With flashbacks of recent bad briefings and dealing with spontaneous volunteers, I mentally looked around for an escape and could not enjoy the childlike enthusiasm. Why couldn’t the kids just leave me alone for a while…didn’t they understand where I had been?
And then there was the moaning. I cannot even estimate how many times I lost my temper listening to one of my own children complaining about a chore they had to do. Really? How would you like to do body recovery work in the tropical and unbearable aftermath of a massive storm? Geez. All I asked was that you take out the trash!
Brandi, who had been in command during my absence was suddenly overshadowed by a monster that lived in the house part-time and threw fireballs the minute he got home. I would eventually blame her for the poorly raised ankle-biters that had once been my children and as you can guess, the marriage suffered even more.
As someone much more in tune with technology and current trends that I ever was, my wife began to seek wisdom on her tablet. Podcast after podcast on parenting told her that if she “only followed these simple steps” things would right themselves. That’s the problem with listening to a podcast called “The Happy Family”… they sound so happy and you start to think you could be THEM.
I felt like my kids were strangers. I felt like I was visiting Brandi’s home. I felt like Brandi and I were on two different teams.
I cannot tell you what day it was or even specifically the year, but I can tell you that it was within the span of God’s perfect timing and it all started with a clock.
As our kids got a bit older, we also got new phones which gave us the capability of doing video calls. When I was deployed, we would schedule calls so I could see the kids, hoping that the relationship would perhaps stay more consistent when I was gone. The first obstacle went a lot like this:
“What time should we call?”
“No, my time”
“And that is what?”
Like I have said before, I love words and I strongly believe that if you listen to words, you can navigate situations with wisdom.
“WHAT time?” is a pretty simple question and “My time” is a pretty simple answer unless you really pay attention. There is an implied separation in this conversation that drills down deep into the core of a relationship. I lived my life on MY time. My family was living in another time.
My wife tried to implement prayer time before bed and so the kids would be reminded to pray for daddy while he was gone, but the barrier was that the kids never really knew where I was. My beautiful bride solved this by hanging a clock in our home with a small placard under it that said “Daddy’s time”.
Suddenly my children felt like they knew WHERE I was simply by knowing WHEN I was living. There was a strange new connection. Upon arriving home after the hanging of the clock, The Tactical Family was born.
Brandi and I sat down and discussed how I was feeling, how she felt and we considered what the kids must be feeling. She allowed me to vent about how frustrated I was that the kids did not understand that daddy lived a life of exact time frames yet none of them wore a watch. I shared how I felt about being a stranger in her home and she shared that she felt she was being stripped of all authority each time I returned. I shared that in the field, chain of command only works if everyone understands it and that using the Incident Command System, we negated issues like this at work.
These discussions morphed into family meetings where I sat with the kids and explained my job. I talked about how we solved issues and disagreements in the field. I spoke about how difficult it can be to work as a team when one person has their own agenda.
As a family we created The Tactical Family; a concept for parenting and operating as a first responder family that allows for each family to maintain their individuality instead of following a set of steps or rules.
I found that when you try to press your family into a mold someone else created, it is like trying to put a toddler in a stock pot- it just doesn’t make sense.
The Tactical Family began as an experiment in managing our home and trying to make the connection we desperately needed as a family. I was used to a chain of command but when I returned home, we still played “good parent – bad parent” half the time. I was used to having strategy meetings and briefings but at home, we still wrote the family schedule and chores on a small dry-wipe board stuck to the refrigerator.
One of the largest sources of frustration for both of us was that chores never seemed to be done or were never completed. Eddy was used to seeing missions accomplished and reports written. At work, he demanded after-action reports. At home, I had no idea what those even were. If I saw a task completed at home I was just glad it was done, and I spent half of my time finishing tasks that were never finished. If you have children, you know exactly what I mean. The box says “24 crayons”. Why do kids only put 22 of them away?
Our experiment was to replicate that “tactical unit” Eddy was used to operating in. And it worked.
Our children no longer had chores but had missions. Once a mission was successfully completed, a report was given. We no longer struggled with “Who’s in charge when you go to the store?” because we established chain-of-command protocols for each mission, each day, and each event.
Family meetings are almost impossible to have in this day and age; schedules are overwhelming and at our house, with 9 children, mealtime is more a battlefield than an atmosphere for in-depth discussions. Once we began to have briefings and strategic meetings, our lives changed.
See, each of these changes made our children feel like they were a part of something much bigger than themselves. Each change brought a sense of belonging and pride. Each day there is a feeling of unity as we all work together toward the successful completion of missions whether that mission is getting the yard picked up or the house cleaned, a new goat pen built or the family trip to the beach.
We are all in it together, as a unit.
This may sound like we militarized the family, but it is really not like that at all. We operate like a normal family and believe me, we have our share of food fights and arguments that would result in a court-martial if we were really in the military, but by changing simple wording and titles, by adjusting our language and labels, we created a unit of eleven people that work together to achieve goals together.
One large part of being TACTICAL is being prepared. If you ever watch a movie about SWAT Teams you will notice that they never have to turn around halfway to Walmart because they forgot the diaper bag. No SWAT Team member ever got to Aldi’s without the quarter for the shopping cart.
Being prepared for any situation is not something that just happens overnight. While it seems that I was given this gift at birth, the rest of my family did not get it that way. Being prepared was one of the first goals when we decided to become a tactical family.
A willingness to always be ready creates a tactical person. Remember, you use the word tactical to describe an action or plan which is intended to help achieve a particular goal.
A common first thought when the word tactical gets used is the root word tactic which means a carefully planned strategy.
Tactical is more about a strategic problem solving process than anything else. You do not have to sign up to any club or join our program to become a tactical family. At the moment we have no website where you can log in and take a test to see what your love language is. The Tactical Family is a concept that we are sharing with more and more responder families and it is working!
How will you know you have become a tactical family? There is no certificate of completion from us, that is for sure. You will know the first time you arrive at the Air B&B and find you remembered everything including the little one’s floaties and your toothbrush.
You will know the day your oldest says “Mom, I believe today is grocery shopping day so I have checked the fluids in your car and the grocery list is on the dashboard.”
You will know the morning you wake up to noises in the yard because your middle child has decided she wants some free time later in the day and has chosen to complete her missions early.
You will know when you start reaching your goals together as opposed to reaching them because you had to push your entire family toward that goal by yourself.
One dictionary defines tactical as “a plan of action designed as an expedient toward gaining a desired end.” Setting goals, forming a plan of action, and taking the proper steps every day to make them a reality might be easier said than done. The struggle is in aiming at an end goal beyond just immediate action.
By sharing the goals with your unit, you have given them all a piece of the unit’s success and have now motivated them to move forward with you.
We are excited about the opportunities that are beginning to present themselves and as we approach conferences around the country, we hope that we will be in your area soon. If The Tactical Family sounds like something your local responder families would like to hear more about or if you would like to pass along our contact information to your next regional conference, we would love to come and share our experiences as we battle and train together as a single unit guided by pre-planning and mission-oriented goals.
Over the years we have accumulated enough that we believe this concept could save marriages and lives in the first responder world. With subject matter from diet to missions, from PTSD to planning, our story is becoming a success story and we cannot wait to share it with you!
Visit our new site by CLICKING HERE