Our son and my husband are best friends and they are inseparable. I knew that our son would be upset his daddy wasn’t coming home at night anymore, but he was 18 months old when he left, so he didn’t know what he was actually leaving us to do. He had no idea that his hero was in danger, but he knew his daddy was a soldier. He loved seeing him in formation and smiled with pride when he saw his daddy. He was a proud soldier’s son, whether he understood what that meant at the time or not.
So the day came and we had decided to keep him home from the actual send off because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it together for him there. So they said goodbye at a baseball game, he barely would give him a hug, he barely said goodbye to either of us. He knew we’d be back for him. While this killed my husband that he couldn’t get a proper goodbye, it’s never happened again. When daddy didn’t come home with me the next day, it was a mess. It always takes him about two or three weeks to adjust to him not being here. It starts with asking for him, looking for him, crying for him, and goes to not sleeping, and having nightmares to being angry at me and acting out.
It’s always the longest three weeks and seems to drag on forever. I decided it was time to do something to help him know that Daddy was still a major part of his life and he will be back. Once my mind is set on something I will not stop until I resolve the problem. I was going to get rid of my sweet little boy’s pain.
I went and printed a ton of pictures of my husband, many of him in uniform so our son remembered why he was not here with us. I put them in inexpensive plastic frames and hung them all over our house at his level so he could see him whenever he wanted. We already had pictures in our dining room so Daddy could eat dinner with us, but we started giving those pictures goodnight and good morning kisses. He seemed to really love the kisses he got to give daddy and it soothed his heart.
We needed to find a way for Daddy to give him kisses too though. So about two weeks into deployment I went out and got a bunch of Hershey’s kisses, a plastic container and some clear tape. I taped my husband’s picture onto the container and filled it with kisses. Every night before he went to bed (before he brushed his teeth) he got a kiss from daddy. Since our son doesn’t get candy, this was a huge deal for him.
By the third week our little man was back to being the happy carefree child he truly is, he felt like Daddy was still in the house and felt comforted by his presence via pictures and kisses. At that age he was excited to see him on Skype but really couldn’t keep his interest, so it was up to me to make their relationship work into our everyday life.
As he’s grown in the past few months though, he is really starting to understand. He talks to Daddy on Skype now, they read books to each other, and he gives the computer screen “knucks” and high fives. They even give kisses, hugs, and tickles through the screen. He is over two now and talking like crazy. He tells everyone his daddy is a soldier proudly. He can spot an American flag out of anywhere and always tells anyone within listening distance that it’s his daddy’s flag. He gets so excited when Daddy sends him mail, he runs upstairs and sits right down to read it. He reads it over and over again. Receiving mail from him has been such a positive aspect of this deployment for our little boy. He looks for it every day.
Deployment is hard on all of us, but seeing your young children cry for their parent is so hard. I would have done anything to take his hurt away. I know he still hurts because he asks every day if Daddy is home yet and even though I have to tell him no, I know that he knows Daddy is coming home soon. That is the significant part of deployment between children and their parents, doing everything you can to keep their relationship very much alive and real.