Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I Love My Military Children

April is Military Child Appreciation month. April 15th, today, is the day we are all invited to show our support by wearing purple. Today is Purple Up Day! Here are a few pictures of our sweet military brats and an article I wrote for the JBSA-Lackland Enlisted Spouse Club newsletter. 

Getting ready for our photo shoot with our favorite Airman...our dad!

"My husband and I have been married over nine years and through those years we have survived many deployments and TDYs. As he prepares to leave on yet another TDY I begin to think about the stress and exhaustion of being a quote-unquote single mother for 3 weeks. I’ll be lonely and will miss him coming home at the end of a normal workday to give me 20 minutes of alone time away from a 2 year old and 2 month old. I start to feel very sorry for myself, but then I stop. My babies. My sweet babies. We have two beautiful daughters. The oldest is just over 2 years old and the other will be 3 months in a couple weeks. My oldest has already gone through a 6 month TDY. Although she was 13 months when Daddy finally came home, she missed him, but it was subtle. This time will be more difficult for her. I often think about it and dread the long days and nights ahead of me. I’ve been considering all the different aspects of being a military child. As wives we knew, for the most part, what we were getting into. We married into the military. We sacrifice daily for our spouses and country. We are able to understand and deal with the responsibilities that take our spouses away from us for various lengths of time.

But our children? The sacrifices they are asked to make for the sake of freedom and fellow countrymen are great. I think of the crazy, wild joy my 2 year old daughter displays when she sees her daddy pull into the drive way and how she is just dying for him to walk in so she can fling herself into his arms. Or the morning when she is awake when he leaves…The desperate racing down the stairs crying “No. Stop! Papi!” as he walks out the door, and then cries at the door while he pulls away. It breaks my heart. The hardships of being a military child are very real and unappreciated. As a military child of an active duty father, she will frequently encounter obstacles and conflicts. Whether they are deployments, long days at work, or trips to the field, absence is the hardest obstacle that she will face regularly. Although this particular struggle will become routine, and she will have to learn to cope with this conflict, every time he leaves will leave her feeling hollow and alone. A deployment or any lengthy separation evokes an array of emotions: fear, isolation, detachment, and longing among others. For a child these feeling are overwhelming. Having such a physical disconnection from their father or mother is very daunting.

How do we help them? Although every child is unique, they all have the same basic needs: to feel loved and safe. There are many coping ideas on the internet. I have been searching for different ideas and activities that we can do to ease the sting of separation. I don’t have all the answers and what works for us may not work for you, BUT, and that’s a big but, the constant is love and security. A child’s world is turned upside down when a parent leaves for even a short amount of time. They need to feel loved and reassured that Mommy or Daddy still loves them and wants more than anything else to come home and be with them.

Bedtime is their special time. My husband gives our daughter a bath and gets her ready for bed. Afterwards, they share a bowl of Greek yogurt, brush their teeth, 2 or 3 rounds of “ni ni” kisses for everyone in the house, even guests, and then off to her room where they read a bedtime story and say their prayers. This routine is so special to her because he makes it special. To my husband it is not a chore. It is a chance to spend quality time with his little girl. He treasures those moments because he knows they are fleeting and soon he will have to leave, again. I will be in charge of bedtime when he’s gone. If possible we will Skype to say goodnight to Papi. We will say our prayers and ask God to bring Papi safely back home to us.

There’s a precious bond that cannot be broken between a parent and child. It can be strained by the stress and fear of separation, but strengthened tenfold upon reuniting and rebuilding the trust and security in that parent's love for them. Each later deployment or TDY will only strengthen the bond. There is a horror and a beauty in being a Military Child. We call them military brats, but in reality they are heroes. Watching Mom or Dad walk away to travel to some distant land for 6 months to a year, not truly knowing if they'll come home, but hoping against all hope and praying that time will fly by and they'll be back in their arms again is heroic.

A military child is expected to be brave and strong. A military child is expected to face separation from their parent to ensure our nation's freedom and way of life. A military child is expected a great many things. A military child tends to be under appreciated.

April is the month that is set aside to honor the Military Child. Help us at the LESC honor every military child by wearing purple on PURPLE UP day, April 15th. Dress your military child in purple. You could even take it a step forward and snap a picture of your brave little Military "Brat" and post it with the hashtag #purpleup via any social media platform. Let's celebrate our nation's littlest heroes!"

We try to foster a love our country in our children. We salute our flag at every retreat, whether indoors or outdoors. Elora Danan runs to the door and stands at attention with her hand on her heart. She doesn't always make its through, but that's okay. Living on an Air Force base has given her the love of planes constantly flying over head, except for when they are too loud. That still scares her. She excitedly points out any planes. In the air or pictures or planes.

Parenting in general is not easy. Parenting a military child has its unique and at times daunting challenges. It's worth it though. All parenting is worth it. Even when you want to pull your hair out. So to all you military parents out there, hang in there. And...

A HUGE THANK YOU TO EVERY MILITARY CHILD, PAST AND PRESENT! Your sacrifices are great and I am grateful for you!

*Photos take by my hubby.
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