Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The HOW of Deployment...with Kids


Such a crappy word. I mean, it is a word that just makes your face go scrunchy like you just smelled a nasty poop and you know you will have to deal with it. It is just yucky like that.

Although so far (we are only on day 14), it has actually been pretty easy.  My Beans normally don't sleep for the first week My Love is away - they EACH typically wake up twice between midnight and 6 am - so that means I don't really sleep that first week.
While I can handle minimal sleep for a fairly long amount of time...that is just brutal. 

This time has not been like every other time. 
We have all slept. WELL.
And awakened rested!
I know it sounds like a little thing - but I truly believe it is a miracle in our house.
It has been that much of a shock to get sleep.

The Beans have transitioned well. They miss My Love - but they aren't living in fear.
I have transitioned well - I miss My Love, but I'm not dying in loneliness.

Long, long ago....December 2004. 

This is where doing this before really comes in handy.  So, I thought I'd share some of the stuff we do to help make the separation easier for the Beans...maybe it will help one of you!

Spring 2004

We don't spring My Love leaving on the children.
We actually learned of this separation about a year ago, but since schedules can switch (a LOT) we waited to inform the children until we were a month away from the first brief time apart - 3 weeks.

Work ups are not my favorite thing.

We sat each of them down separately, and talked openly about him leaving. How he would be gone and then home, and then gone, and then home, and then gone, and barely home, gone longer, home briefly, and gone for a long, long time. We tried to give them the best big picture they each could understand.
String Bean cried.
Jumping Bean asked if she could go play.
Bitty Bean asked for candy.
Boy Bean didn't listen.

It may seem silly to do that with children so young - but they understand more than we give them credit for.  It helps them trust us - that they won't wake up one day and daddy will just be gone. 

Summer 2012
I always tell them that Daddy loves them wherever he is. It may seem like an odd thing, but that was a fear for some of the children during one of our separations. So I remind them he doesn't stop loving them just because he can't kiss them goodnight. In fact, whenever he is gone - I give them gentle, "Mommy kisses" and  silly, noisy, "Daddy kisses" when I tuck them in. Sometimes, when they really miss him - they ask for those "Daddy kisses." I'll talk in a low voice and do something silly that he would do. It helps keep him in our days. It keeps him a part of our life.

We talk about emotions and address fears

Summer 2011
About how it is okay to be sad, or angry, or happy, or miss Daddy, or not miss Daddy. We talk about how they will probably feel all of those things at some point. And that is OKAY. What is not okay is getting swallowed by emotions. It isn't okay to believe lies or live in constant fear - and we go to the Bible:

God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind  2 Timothy 1:7

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

When they ask me the hard questions, things like: 
"Is it dangerous what Daddy does at his work?"
"Could Daddy die before he comes home to us?"
"Will I ever see Daddy again?"

Easter 2011

I answer them truthfully. 
Yes. What Daddy does is dangerous. But he is where he is supposed to be. God is taking care of him.
Yes. Daddy could die before he comes home to us - but that is true for all of us, every single day. God has given Daddy a job to do - and he needs to do it. God has given us a job to do, here, and we need to that as well.
We are planning on you seeing Daddy again! They practice and check all of the things on the boat and on the aircraft to make everything as safe as possible - so Daddy should come home to us, but sometimes the Daddies and Mommies don't come home.

January 2011

We made Daddy Pillows. 
Each girl (slacker mom hasn't made the boy's) has a travel size pillow case with a picture of them with Daddy screen printed on it. They can hug it, they can kiss it, they can talk to it. They are allowed to bring it around with them if they are having a hard day. It has been a great comfort to each of them. I'm sure the Boy will feel similarly once he has his to hug. Or wrestle.

We have pictures of My Love with us all around the house.
And I tell the stories of the pictures - we keep Daddy in our daily life as much as possible. In fact, even though My Love is away, whenever Bitty Bean poops in the toilet - the first person she wants to tell is her Daddy.
I just love this picture! November 2008

The rules don't really change
I try to keep life as normal as possible when My Love is gone - I don't want the children resenting him when he returns. So, since they don't sleep with us when he is home....they don't sleep with me when he is gone. (Unless there are extenuating circumstances)

This means there are battles we have chosen not to fight when he is home - because we knew I couldn't keep up the fight when he is gone.

On the pier - December 2010

Prepping children for deployment is very tricky - but not insurmountable. 
Each of our Beans LOVE their Daddy. 
They've adjusted to his returns with ease. 
They've run to him on the pier and on the flight line.  

But the weight of what their relationship looks like? 
(Especially when they are young) 
Rests on the parent still at home. 

Flight line - October 2012

Which is probably why, after a recent separation, all 3 girls ran to hug Daddy....and Boy Bean punched him in the nose.

~Whitney Copyright 2013

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