This is our 4th deployment.
But its our first deployment where the kids are really old enough to understand the length of time that Daddy is going to be gone. And they don’t have that ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality that they did with our last three deployments.
My kids’ ages are 16, 9, 6 and 4.
My 16 year old daughter has always been very head strong, and independent. She’s not one to show much emotion when it comes to saying goodbyes and all that.
The younger three, though, really are having a hard time. Well, mostly just the middle two. My four year old stops throughout his day to ask again when Daddy will be home, but my answers are age appropriate, “Not for quite a while yet.” He seems content with that, then goes on about his business.
I knew we would have some tough times this deployment, but I didn’t expect to see some of the behaviors I’ve seen this early on.
We are nearly 4 weeks into the deployment. The other night, my 9 year old son, who is my sweet obedient child, fought me when I asked him to help out with making dinner. He said, in true perfect son fashion, “No thank you mom, I would rather not do that.” (He has an old soul and I love having conversations with him.) So when I asked him again to help me, he said, “You asked me to help, and I don’t want to. You weren’t telling me, you were asking me.” I may have lost my patience a little and asked him again, in a more ‘telling’ voice. He did what I asked him, but then as soon as his tasks were done, he broke down in tears and dropped to the floor crying.
[Insert sound of shattering heart on floor.]
He is never one to lash out or be angry. He’s very laid back and easy going. So to see him like this, I knew something was seriously bothering him.
I sat on the floor with him, putting dinner on hold, and just held him, rubbed his back and asked him over and over again what was bothering him. He finally answered:
“I don’t want to be the man of the house, mom.”
My. Heart. Ached.
Knowing very well those were the last words my husband said to him, it crushed my soul. My son is very literal and takes things to heart. I know that since the moment my husband said those words, my son held a heavy burden on his shoulders. And he didn’t share that until just then.
I immediately hugged him tighter, kissed his head, and told him, “Okay, you don’t have to be. That’s okay. You don’t have to be.”
I know my husband never meant for our son to be stressed by the added ‘responsibility’ he left my son when he said:
“You are the man of the house now. Take good care of your mom and your sisters and brother.”
I truly feel my husband wanted my son to feel important and ‘in charge’ while he was away.
And tonight, after spending the evening with our neighbors watching the Super Bowl, we came home to get ready for bed. He broke down crying again. As I tucked him into bed, he cried harder. He begged me not to make him go to school tomorrow. They haven’t been to school in over a week because of the ice we had last week. I told him he really needed to go to school. He then told me he missed Daddy so much and when he’s at school, he’s afraid he’ll think about him and start crying.
My response: It’s okay to miss your daddy. I miss him a lot too. And its okay to cry. And I know there are lots of kids in your class who have had their mommy or daddy leave on a deployment too. So I’m sure they understand that you miss daddy a lot. It’s okay. This is Daddy’s job, and he’s keeping lot of people safe right now. But he will be back before you know it. Look how much time has already passed! I know he misses you too and he would want more than anything to be home right now, but he has to do his job first. He wouldn’t want you to miss any school days because of him. He’d want you to go and have fun, be with your friends and learn lots of cool stuff.
Stress is a serious thing for all members of the family during a deployment.
It’s important to watch for changes in behavior in home and school. Inform their teachers of what is going on in your home, and let them know when a parent deploys. Talk to your children, no matter their age, and let them know what to expect during a deployment. There are lots of activities you can do to help pass the time. Help them understand why mom or dad have to go away for so long.