SHARE

Thank you to Bridget for this true story of why it is so important to keep your loved ones’ memory alive while he or she is deployed!


About a month ago, my husband returned from another seven-month deployment. The previous deployments/detachments brought many of the same feelings as this one: excitement, anxiousness, etc. Adding to those was the feeling of terror of how my daughter would react to her father, at just a little over a year old. I try not to keep track of how many days my husband is gone, but I do know my husband missed something like nine months of the first year of our daughter’s life. This is one of those areas that it seems like everyone has a comment on: “Little girls always know who their daddies are,” “Well you’ve been able to Skype right? She’ll do fine,” “She will recognize his voice,” and so on. It reminded me of being super pregnant and people saying, “You’ve definitely dropped! You’ll go soon,” “It doesn’t look like the baby has any more room in there!” They mean well, but when you’re forty-one weeks pregnant, few things are comforting. I appreciated that everyone was trying to make us all feel better, but it didn’t calm my nerves.

 

Sweet Charlotte
Sweet Charlotte

I had a friend recommend baby sign language, so we started it with Charlotte when she was very young and I absolutely recommend it. Our daughter says the “regular” amount of words for her age, but she signs about fifty more. For example, this morning I asked her if she wanted to go outside, then that she needed her shoes and hat before we could. She signed “outside,” “shoes,” and “hat,” then stood by the door. The first dvd, which we started while my husband was away on a three-month detachment, introduces all the basics, as well as family members. My parents were in town, so she started comprehend mom, grandma, and grandpa almost immediately. Dad was one she didn’t understand, and one that she didn’t understand the entire time he was gone, no matter how many times I did the sign over Skype, FaceTime, or through pictures and phone calls.

 

Of course, no one knows a child better the parent most with him/her, so I started to explain to my husband that she may not remember him. The time he was gone was the time where she started understanding who people were, and without him tangibly around…I didn’t want him to be disappointed. We talked about it often, and he seemed to understand. This paired with the fact that I don’t allow anyone to hold my daughter unless she reaches for them (some crazy CNN article I read when I was pregnant said that this is a helpful protectant against sexual predators, the child doesn’t feel like he/she has to go to any adult, stranger or otherwise), I wanted to be as honest as possible with my husband.

 

One of the reasons I created Daddy’s/Mommy’s Deployed was so that my daughter would “see” her dad every day; so that when I read her the story, she would hear his name, her name, she would see his uniform in the story. I knew it was helping because, even though she was too young to tell me she understood, she would kick her legs, smile and point at any man in a Marine Corps flight suit at the commissary!

 

Homecoming!
Homecoming!

On the night my husband returned, she looked at him like “I feel like I should know you, but you’re definitely a stranger.” I saw his disappointment through the fake laugh when she cried as he tried to hold her for the first time…and the second time…and the hundredth time. My husband is a great dad: he isn’t afraid to change diapers, or do bath time, he plays on the ground with her, takes her for walks in her “car,” and so on, but it wasn’t an easy adjustment for her, or for him. It has taken time, and I know it will take more before they are 100% sure of each other.

 

My husband continued to read our daughter’s copy of Daddy’s Deployed with her even though he was no longer deployed. It really seemed to help her understand what had occurred during the previous months. On the page where Daddy leaves, Charlotte says “bye bye,” and then looks at him (instead of cartoon Daddy) and says “Hi Daddy!” It’s really very heart-melting.

 

The point of this blog is to reassure all the mommies, or daddies if mommy is deployed, that it’s ok if your child takes a little longer to readjust. I know my husband has seen his friends’ older children at homecomings sprinting towards their waiting arms, and I’m sure he was hoping for that, too. Now that she’s well on her way to becoming a daddy’s girl, I have a feeling that will be reality for the next homecoming!

 

(Oh, and she certainly understands the sign for “dad” now. :))

Daddy's Deployed Logo

______

Please check out Bridget’s fabulous book.  It  is committed to making each military family the star through an entirely personalized story. No detail is overlooked: from hair color and eye color of the deploying parent and child, to the branch of service and uniform worn, our book aims to truly connect the child to the deployed parent, no matter how many thousands of miles may separate them.

______

For more family resources, please see MilitaryOneClick’s Deployment Page.

______

MORE TO READ