I did not encounter this with the last deployment. There was only one, then. And she was so little. She would take all of her stuffed animals from her bed and put them by the door, one by one, at five in the evening. And then she would sit there, until I picked her up and put her at the table to feed her. She didn’t cry. Not in the beginning. She didn’t ask for him, at first.
Because she didn’t understand.
Now, that tiny one understands. And so does her younger sister. They wail, whine, weep. They ask for him constantly. They bring me the iPod, bought not for music but specifically for maintaining communication, and beg me to call Daddy. Sorry, sweetie. We have to wait for Daddy to call us. And they cry again.
The Daddy dolls go everywhere with us. The last few days, one was MIA. I could not find it anywhere. Emotions were high. We found him in the car this morning. Relief. Sweet relief. My tiny two year old held him all the way to daycare. And then she wept when I left her.
“I wanna go home! Please take me home!”
I almost acquiesced. But the sweet daycare worker comforted me.
“She’ll be alright, Mama. She’ll be ok.”
Will she? I wondered the same with my now-four year old. She was a wreck for months when our Soldier came home for the birth of her little sister, only to leave again. He returned home again for good, and she had horrific separation anxiety for months. Behaved, at times, like a possessed child. It was scary and heartrending. Eventually, she calmed down, but we struggled with behavior issues for nearly two years. I don’t know how much of that was just toddler, and how much was a deployment and four moves within a year.
Now there’s two suffering. And I hate it.
The two year old asks about bad-guys, talks about wars. She doesn’t like wars. Wars, she says, are where bad guys live. Wars are bad. My heart aches to hear this come from such a tiny person. She shouldn’t know these words, be able to verbalize these concepts.
I hear the crying at night, the begging for their Daddy. “When is he coming home?” “How many more days, Mama?” Weeks, my love. Months. I see how prone they are to sudden crying, their breaking hearts. They won’t let go of me sometimes. So I sit. And I love them.
But, I see a strength that most other children their age don’t have. The four year old says we can do anything. She smiles and calls me her battle buddy, that we will get through this together. Because we have each other. Last week, I spoke so sharply, because my own heart was aching. As soon as the cutting words left my mouth, I felt so guilty. Without a word, my sweet four year old came over and just hugged me. She knew. She could sense it.
We’ve held each other crying, the three of us. The five-month old is fine–as long as somebody feeds her. But the three of us–we are clinging to each other. Holding on while the hurt washes over, holding fast to comfort another’s aching heart.
They are strong.
I know they will hurt, I know they will have to deal with aspects that most children won’t. A year without Daddy. Months without Daddy. But, my prayer is that this forms them into more resilient adults. Makes them stronger. More confident. Flexible.
I play a large role in that occurring, I know. I must be kind, loving, stable. I must be two parents at once. Be a model of resiliency, of confidence, too. But, it’s also okay to let them know I’m hurting,also. That I miss him, too. Because that’s okay. It’s a lot of pressure. But, I have prayer. I have Him. And I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.
I know, sometimes, I approach Him like my children approach me. Targeting my anger towards Him, wondering why He’s allowing all this to happen. Why he won’t stop the phone breaking, things going wrong, the children screaming. Why He won’t help me.
Because he’s my Father.
And sometimes, we have to endure things that are absolutely rotten. Because going through the hard times, the seasons that bring us to our knees, makes us stronger, more resilient. And we have to learn that. The sweet little ones have to learn that. I have to learn that. To them, I am Mommy–big, strong, grown up. To Him, I am but another little child. His child. And I have a great deal to learn. My Father can’t fix it, no more than I can fix it for my children. But He is there to comfort me, show me it’s okay to hurt. Just as I am there for my children.
They will be ok. I will be ok.
We will all be ok.
We will be stronger for this. We will be more resilient for this. We will get through. Our Soldier, God willing, will come home safe and sound. And we will have learned great lessons.
Because Christ strengthened us.