A Christmas Song that should not be sung.

December 8, 2009

I found this song on a blog post. The writer, a young mother, questioning the wisdom of the 1st grade teacher who had asked the children to bring pictures of deployed parents to show while they sing this, as part of a Christmas program.
I would love to hear your take on this song. What kind of thinking is behind telling a child that Santa can deliver his/her deployed parent as a Christmas gift? I also take offense that the song suggests that Santa fullfill the prayer of the mother. My own personal opinion is this teacher may have an antimilitary bias, or that she knows nothing about children. The loss, that is the reality of deployment is cruelly played with here.

Bring Him Home Santa
Dear Santa, I need to change my Christmas list
There’s one big thing I missed
You see my Daddy’s working far away from here
And I know Santa, I asked for a Barbie doll
And a brand new soccer ball
But I’d trade it all, for just one gift this year…

Bring him home Santa, bring him home to mom and me
Let us wake up Christmas morning, and find him standing by our tree
You can pick him up on your way, he could ride there in your sleigh
Don’t make him spend Christmas all alone
Bring him home

And Santa, here’s a picture that I drew
Of him in his dress blues
Mama says our country needs him over there
And you know Santa, this whole year I’ve been good
And I was hopin’ that would
Do all you could to answer her prayer…

Bring him home Santa, bring him home to mom and me
Let us wake up Christmas morning, and find him standing by our tree
You can pick him up on your way, he could ride there in your sleigh
Don’t make him spend Christmas all alone
Bring him home

Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home

The mother asked if it was too much for people to have a little sensitivity for Military Families during the holidays…I would have to keep my little one home from this one.

A Prayer for Ft. Hood

November 6, 2009

We at Wee The People Publishing ,are suffering with you. We are so sorry that you have to face this in our Military Family.

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We send this prayer along for all at Ft. Hood , God does have things in hand, though we do not understand.

Dear Heavenly Father ,
We are grateful to come to You when earth has no answers. We put our trust in Your Sovereignty and strength when our strength fails.
Walk beside those who have lost loved ones, friends ,and fellow warriors. We pray for the children of Ft. Hood, for their fears and for their Families.
We ask Father that Your justice prevail, and that evil be defeated. We ask Lord that this heartache will bring many to the foot of the cross, and that where evil is strong, may You be ever stronger .
Amen

Making Deployment A Time of Growth for Young Children:How Do Adult Attitudes Effect Children?

October 5, 2009

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Paula and I had the privilege of doing a book signing at a friends farm, as they sponsored Military Family Day at their pumpkin patch. A beautiful fall day, with the blue October sky that we here in Colorado enjoy so much! Kids and parents together picking out pumpkins, produce ,and generally enjoying the simple country life.

Up to our table  came a woman, who read through our first book. The daughter of a military father she told of the suffering that she went thorough as a child. It came out differently than perhaps many have thought. The suffering , she explained was not that she was without her father, though that was tough, it was her mothers response that damaged her heart so deeply. Her mother she said, was constantly depressed and unable to cope with her husbands absence. She would sleep and cry, and the children at a young age had to get their own breakfast.

The thing she remembered was her fathers homecomings, which were short and infrequent. He came with all the honor , salutes, flags waving, sun glinting off white uniforms as his ship pulled in. She felt proud in those moments.

As I listened, I thought about the way a parent responds to the difficulties of life. Does it tell the children that they are on their own? That’s a frightening thought for a little one. Does it tell the child that life is only good, when we have what we want and when those we love are close by? Maybe it tells a child that they can make the best of it. With faith , an attitude of adventure, along with the conscious choice for “happy” they can make it. We Serve Too! is an attitude, as well as their story!

I am certainly not suggesting that deployments never bring tears, or the reality that some days are  just downright difficult. If a parent can be real with their emotions, and at the same time teach children that happiness is indeed a choice that can be made, children are better equipped for life.

Some military kids grow up to find they have difficulty keeping relationships intact, perhaps coming from so many goodbyes.  Leaving people every year or so can become an unconscious pattern that interferes with long term choices.  I don’t know the answer, but I wonder if parents who work to stay connected, those who are practicing the principle of resiliency as the hallmark of Military Life, have stronger children?

I want you to see these young ladies that the National Guard honored by making a video of thier song. They are singing about the family, and it is obvious things are not easy. That said,  they are thriving and moving forward.Perhaps the attitudes of their adults have fostered that?  check this out:

The Price of Peace

I do not believe that Military Kids are destined to have these patterns and struggles. They can come through as healthy and well adjusted as any child if the parents attitude is one of honor and purpose in the waiting.

Our attitudes now,  as the adults, can set a child’s life on a course to resiliency or  suffering . There is more choice in it than we know.

The Last Day…Soak up the Sun!

September 28, 2009

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Today is the last day our son Justin is home on leave. So many want to see him, and the time goes by so fast, we are left feeling like the time that is about to end has hardly begun. Our son Ryan will also head home to Kansas, the two of them making it way too quiet here! I think that all of us experience this in life. Our humanity always wants more, and we forget to soak up the sun!

Today I am fighting this, because the natural tendency is to begin the disconnect to help the pain diminish. We start this a few days ahead, and to not do it takes some work.

I used to tell my daughter (who is adopted and had abandonment issues) that when people actually leave, then we can cry, but until it happens we will be happy and enjoy each moment.

I try and look at the grandchildren today and enjoy the fun that are having with Daddy, not think of the days ahead when we wish we could tell him something or share something together. This is Military life, and life in general actually. I remember many long days with my husband in the restaurant business when I longed for family time.

So..remember to enjoy the day. The sun will set and another day will come around. Being happy is honestly a choice made, not a thing that happens to you. Happy comes with the knowledge that things will never be perfect in this world, but with a grateful heart we enjoy what is offered. We know that  life is sadness and joy, all in the same day. Today the sun is still shining . Tomorrow the goodbyes will be hard, but the warmth of today will still be felt.

The Tear Bottle: Making Deployment A Time of Growth for Young Children

April 11, 2009

The Tear Bottle is the creation of my friend and partner Paula Johnson. It is a special addition to our Homecoming Box and something that can be used by parents as they deal with the tears that are an expected part of deployment (and life).

Here’s how it works:

The Homecoming Box is a special box a child can use to collect symbols and tokens of things they do while their parent is deployed. These items remind and comfort. Later, things can be taken out and stories told to share with Daddy .Not only does this save some of the little milestones of life, but also is something tangible that child can do, as the family thinks of what would make the best reminder.

Here is where The Tear Bottle comes in. There will be sad times as a parent is deployed. There will be times that a child really wants the parent there. At these times, a child can pick out one of the sparkly “tears”, write a reminder of what brought those tears, and put them in the Homecoming Box. When the parent returns home, and each item is taken out of the box and the event explained, once is awhile the “tears” will come out. After the tears are talked about, they go into the Tear Bottle.

The Tear Bottle becomes a vehicle to heal, by placing the sorrows in their special place. This frees the stories of the Homecoming Box to be those happy times.

Sadness and tears are part of a child’s life. Sometimes in childhood, tears come for reasons as varied as the fact that you did not buy the right kind of Mac and Cheese, to the sorrow that Daddy missed the preschool play. You, as the parent decide what is worthy of the tear bottle. Be sensitive to a child’s point of view, the loss of a favorite teddy or doll may very well be important enough to get a “tear”. Maybe you have a day when a you need a tear for the bottle as well. Use it, change it, adapt it , to work in the ways best for your family.

(complete directions for making the Homecoming Box and the Tear Bottle with your family will soon be on our parent page as a free download)

A Heart of Desire for Reunion, or "Is it the Airport Gramma?"(sigh)

April 3, 2009

Today I picked up my grandchildren at their daycare , with the plan to use the end of this beautiful Colorado day by going to the park. We have been a bit cooped up with cold air and snow, so I knew the kids would love some outdoor unrestrained playtime.

I told them that first, we would be going to the car wash ( a real source of entertainment, especially when the soap sprays onto all the windows and we are in a dark cave in some unknown world!) Secretively I held onto where we were going until the kids started to guess. This game came to an abrupt end , when my 7 year old grandaughter shouts …”I know, we are going to the airport!”

Oh Lord, it was like a punch in the gut, and I felt so bad that I had to tell her that it was not anything that wonderful or exciting today, but just a trip to the park down the street.

Later, since my daughter was recovering from having her wisdom teeth out, we watched a movie. Marley and Me. If you have not seen it, suffice to say, it is sad. If you already had sad started, it was a good way to get tears flowing into a cleansing flood. All this was topped by news that our son, her Daddy, would probably not be coming in May, but possibly June or even July ( she does not yet know this). Our sense of loss tonight was magnified by fatigue. As I held my sobbing little one, my own heart was working on my own losses and blessings.

Tears are so much a part of deployment. Not that it is that way all the time, but the truth is, they are a cleansing of the missing and the loneliness . This photo is our girl, hugging a photo of her Daddy. One day soon, it truly will be the day for the airport. None of us can wait, What a wonderful day that will be!

Birthday from far away…leave your message at the beep

December 7, 2008

You know what is so hard sometimes about having a deployed loved one? About a million things some days, but today,my son was trying so hard to call his daughter, and we just couldn’t get it connected. He tried in the morning, but she was at a sitter, then he tried later and her mom was not able to answer, then I told him I would have the kids for the afternoon , and he got through to our house while we were at a Christmas play at church. I know how much he wanted to talk with her because the machine recorded that was 7 p.m. here meaning, it was 4 a.m. in Iraq. All I could do when I got home to the answering machine was cry.

There are so many losses, that some days are more than a person can really stand. Our grandaughter is now 7, and I just long for a moment that our son could enjoy these milestones. I don’t feel the losses all the time, but today I do. Today all I want is for him to be able to hug his child and not have to say Happy Birthday on a stupid machine.

For those of you out there who also have these days missing your loved one in uniform, and those days when you want to just stay home forever so you don’t have to feel the empty gut thing, when you miss those coveted calls, hang in there! We are going to have those days and now that the holidays are here, we will have more of them. Things that may help the holidays be a bit more joyful is to find fun things to send in a flat rate box…how about Christmas lights made out of shotgun shells (my friend Paula found these at a craft show!) Sending photos of the kids doing holiday things on the e-mail, or actually writing some letters,( you know the ones you can take out and look at over and over even if the computer is down?) Getting busy on things that help our deployed ones, helps us as well. Keep the holidays positive and relax in the knowledge that you can only do what it is in your power to do, the rest I hand over to God, and know that He will be there for all the moments I can’t be.

Children and Loss, how do we help them? Making Deployment a Time of Growth for Young Children

September 9, 2008

Childhood... We have pictures of it being carefree, protected and idyllic. Then life happens and we have to deal with not only our own pain, but the pain of children we love. How do we do that?

If we overprotect we rob them of valuable learning, of the coping mechanisms that they will need to adjust to the losses of life. If we do not protect enough, we throw them into situations above their ability, and harden them to joy in life. So what do we do?

Loss is a human certainty. If we live long enough we will lose things precious to us. Loss is an issue that we must think through carefully if we do not want children to see themselves as the victims of an unfair world. Rather, we would have them see the realitiy. Loss is a part of life, one that if faced with acceptance and faith, we will come out stronger.

This week a friend of my daugther in law, was killed , my grandaughter has questions. I told her that this friend is more alive now than she has ever been, that for her, it is not a bad thing, but we are sad. I told her that her friend is with Jesus, and is happy and whole and free. That is what I believe. I cannnot tell her what I do not know. Why does this friends little boy have to grow up without his Mommy? I don’t have the answer. I do know that God is good, and that our days are set before we live one of them. I think that we can tell our children the truth. The friend is gone, and we will miss her.

Long ago, all people went to the funeral of those they knew and loved. From the smallest infant to the oldest great grandparent the acknowledgement of death was easy as the acknowledgement of life. These days we think we need to protect children from loss, sometimes because we are consumed with our own grief, and sometimes because we think that we can protect the child from sadness. We can’t.

What about deployment? The loss of a parent for an extended time, is a part of military life. As in the case of sheltering a child from death, we should not shelter the child from the truth that the parent will be gone for a long time. The parent can assure the child that no matter how long it is, they will be thinking of the child, loving them and are still their parent. This takes some real commitment on the part of parents. The way many kids feel loved, is time, so what do we do when time is the only thing we can’t give?

Well, we can put some thought into the fact of loss. You cannot change the facts. You can work within them. Letters , phone calls, packages, go a long way to making a child feel remembered. Asking questions about the life they know, school, dentist appointments, all the things of everyday ,can still be shared, and should be as much as possible. Don’t worry too much about how they will cope, if you are coping well, it is more likely that they will.

Teach them that you are like a resilient rubber band. We get stretched and sometimes the stretching hurts, but we bounce back and over and over we can come back better than before. When we normalize a situation, we take the fear out. Deployment is a normal part of our life. We will feel the loss and move on, living and loving. With a loss such as death, we can tell the truth. It is a normal part of life, and though we will hurt, we will survive, and given time the mention of that persons name will someday bring a smile instead of tears.

Maybe it will help to know that children do not usually grieve the way adults do, but they do grieve. Commonly children will be irritable, whiny, cry easily. The fit over the chicken nuggets…is grief. Sure they throw a fit occasionally over chicken nuggets anyhow, but, familiarity in childhood is a core value. Maybe they do not want to go to bed (which is exactly what you need them to do!)

Children become fearful when they see a parent cry, but that does not mean a parent should not cry.

Tell your child something like:, “I am crying because I miss your Dad, it is normal to cry when we are sad, but I will feel better later”. “Crying helps us wash out our heart, so it will heal and feel better”.Be prepared that your little one will want to cling when you most when want him to leave you alone. Give yourself some space , but recognize that you have a chance to teach some coping skills while you are at it. “I know you want to be with me because you are worried, but I am fine, and I am going to take a short nap, could you sing me a song?” You may not get the quiet you desire, but you will be parenting, and that is worth more than you know.

As an adult you can teach good coping skills. Taking care of yourself and telling them how you are doing that, can teach then that there are ways to help ourselves feel better and we are not helpless. We can call a friend, engage your children in prayer with you, teach them to take a small moment to enjoy, a cup of hot cocoa. Loss is something none of us like, but we can and do grow through it.