If you are not familiar with the life of a military kid allow me to paint you a picture. This is a recent conversation I had with my daughter:
“I really miss Daddy.”
“Would you like to call him?”
“No, I’m really mad at him.”
Our [82nd Airborne] Soldier was recently away for a 10-day training, as we say “in the field.” When he returns home he’ll see the family for a few days but he’ll still be working long hours. On the 5th day back from training he returns home with news that he’ll be leaving yet again for another 6-week training the following morning. He leaves before the kids wake up.
That’s why my daughter is mad. She doesn’t understand why he is not coming home again.
After three combat deployments spanning from 9-15 months and countless training missions in and out of country, I could say I am used to this life but I cannot say I am ever “settled.” We are not in one place for very long nor is anything ever permanent. My soldier and I are used to the distance, and the long hours, days and weeks without communication but I still don’t have a good way to explain how things are consistently inconsistent to my children.
I know they’ll grow to be stronger than most by living through these experiences but in the now it feels like living through a never ending natural disaster.
The hardest part of this life is explaining the time and distance to our children. Their bright, shiny eyes see the days as an eternity. When my four-year-old sees a stack of clean uniforms sitting on the table and asks, “Is daddy working forever today or just a tiny bit?” it breaks my heart.
Our children have only known their dad to be in the military. In that time, my four-year-old daughter has already lived in another country and two different states, has visited 11 countries, and has had to move twice while my 16-month-old son has already lived in two states and has moved once. They have said more “see you laters” and “goodbyes” to their daddy than “hello’s.”
This is part one of two-part series written by Amy Williams, the Communications Specialist for the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Cape Fear Valley in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Part two will run on April 12.