The Daddy Book: Proof of Love and Commitment

March 26, 2012

All families who have experienced the long days away of deployment, know that sometimes our perceptions are colored by our feelings of missing the one we love. This can turn to a belief that we NEVER get to be together and the slope of self pity that just sometimes happens for us all. We know that the work being done is important , but the connections are important too. We are in the midst of the deployment cycle as our soldier is in the “stan” and we here at home working to keep the connections fresh and happening!

I want to share with you a project I have been working on lately, one that you might want to take on as well. This can be as indiviual as your family, but I want to state the thinking behind it.  There are many things out there that are suggested for keeping connections between parent and child during long deployments. This one is created to span the length of a Military career, and a number of deployments.

Our family is now on four years and counting of our soldier being away from home. Two years in  Iraq, two in Germany and now in Afghanistan, will bring us eventually to five. I started the Daddy Book, so that my grandchildren could look at it whenever they want. They can see when Daddy was home, when he sent letters and photos while he was away, that e-mails came from him, and that through it all he has loved them, parented them, and been a father even while defending our country. Some of you will have longer or shorter deployments, but what matters is that the perceptions of being left, perhaps of missing out, can be spoken to, with proof of things that could otherwise be forgotten.

The Daddy Book is an ongoing mission. You can set in up in a million different ways; it can be a scrapbook as ours is, or a box you keep things in, or a file folder that is marked for each deployment. Kids can help, or you can make it for them, and just update it as things happen. Encourage the parent who is away to send notes, letters, photos and other things to add. Be sure to take lots of photos of family events and times together when you are finally reunited.  Here are a few photos of the Daddy Book  so far: in it there are the cards, letters and e-mails, photos, a Psalm 91 bandanna that he carried in Iraq, a coin from that same deployment. I have labeled each page with the post they were at, what they were doing and marked the times he came home and took them places they love, like the children’s museum and build a bear workshop. You will have your favorite memories too, and the kids will love to look through them.

New Idea for Military Kids connecting to a deployed parent!

April 10, 2010

Operation We Are Here http://www.operationwearehere.com/BratTownBugle.html has come up with a wonderful free download to make connecting fun for kids and their military parents!

At home, you can choose from many different pages, print and let the kids get creative! A garden page can tell all about what you are planting this spring. The sports page lets kids tell all about the soccer game or skating lesson. You can choose to make the front page news that your child got a good report card, helped the neighbors or sang in church.

There are endless possibilities for both parent and child to work together, and since it is a bit more structured, you eliminate the “I don’t know what to say” dilemma.
Created by a Military wife and mother, brat town is an inspired idea. Hope you take advantage of a fun project for your family!

Using Everyday Events to Connect Kids…Making Deployment a Time of Growth for Young Children

January 12, 2010

blanket-buddies

You know there are so many ways to help kids stay connected. The problem is that as adults, we have to take time at the end of a tiring day and then find more energy to apply some creative connections for our kids and our deployed loved ones.
How do we get the energy, the drive and the ideas to all come together and be more than good intentions? Doing things as part of a normal day may help.

As you make those cookies for the FRG group, or the church potluck, let the kids make a few extra batches to send to Dad. While you are busy doing bills, give the kids crayons and markers to make creations worthy of decorating a barracks.

Get others onboard. If the kids see grandma once a week, maybe she would not mind helping the kids write a letter, even the teacher may be persuaded that a letter writing session to Dad is a valuable learning time, and once a week could be swapped for another similar homework assignment.

Video the karate lesson, swimming lesson, or other activity to share with the parent deployed…you have to sit there anyhow!

Need some relief from being the only parent in the house? Ask your deployed spouse to read a story on tape or before deployment make a small library of videos of him reading a story to the kids. Pop these in when you just have to get a quiet moment.
The kids will love you for it.

Make a list of everyday things you do and see if you can pair them up with some ways to connect the kids with the one who they are missing. It will make it a little easier for all of you!

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 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)

Military Kid sends a Note to Wee The People Publishing: Thanks Christian!

March 6, 2009

In the world of writing and publishing books for children, there are some wonderful moments, when the purpose you set out to accomplish comes full circle and you see in a child’s life something that makes all of it worthwhile. Paula and I have been blessed lately with that experience. We have been spending the past months from October through this past week, preparing our second book, We Serve Too!2, A Child’s Reunion Book. This book was created to touch the children of those in the process of reunion and reintegration.

The process of publishing a book,is somewhat tedious ,with many decisons to be made. Many small tests must be passed to make sure that the books we produce for the littlest members of our honored Military, will end in  resources worthy of the calling.

I am going to post here a special letter, and picture from one Military Family that is dear to our hearts. Thank you for encouraging us as we forge ahead! This letter was written in regard to our first book: We Serve Too! A Child’s Deployment Book.

Alex (Christians Mom) writes:
Dear Paula & Kathleen,
Christian wrote a little note for you. He really love the creed in the back of the book. He lights up when he reads it. The book brings tears to his eyes because that Daddy had to leave just like his Daddy. He feels bad for those kids and hurts for them. I think it is good since he is really articulating his feelings and letting us in his pain, sharing his fears. I am glad hea can open up about it and talk about it now. He was a very worried and scared little boy. Iam enclosing a picture of Scott & Christian.
Thank you again,
:

Christian’s note says,
“My favorite part of the book was the poem. It was my favorrite part because it had a lot of nice words. When I read it, it made me feel proud. it made feel proud because i’m a Military kid and my Dady(sic) is fighting for us.
Christian 7 years old.

(and a hand drawn picture of “Dady”)

Thanks Christian! A compliment like that from you, is truly a treasure to us!

OK, how common is this? "No, I don wanna talk to Daddy!"

January 11, 2009

I am contemplating a small booklet to address an issue that has come up in our own family twice, and I am guessing may have come up in yours. My grandson who is 4, refuses to talk to his deployed Daddy on the phone.

Our granddaughter also did this when he was deployed the first time, and she was about the same age. Now at 7 she can’t wait to talk to her Dad, but our son sure feels bad when his little boy will not talk with him.

Kids need to know that we hear what they are saying ( or not saying!) . When our granddaughter refused, I told her, I knew that she was unhappy about Daddy being gone but that Daddy was very sad not to talk to her. Her job as a military child, was to give him the gift of hearing her voice. This worked ,and she did begin to talk with him.

I can think of some reason the kids do this, maybe they do not want to feel what they feel, when they talk to Daddy and he is still gone.

Maybe they think, as our granddaughter confessed, that they will force Daddy to come home if they won’t talk.

A conversion about the realities of the military…that Dad is not choosing to be gone, but is required to fulfill his promise to defend our nation, can at least let them know it is not them.

Helping kids to connect with the deployed parent as much as is possible is the best thing to do. Keep the parents photo readily available, talk about him or her, make a homecoming box (see blog on homecoming box) and talk about things that will be shared once the parent returns home.

Kids do need to offer the gift of gab to their deployed parent, and though you cannot make them do it, you can let them know that it is hurtful behavior.

Help them by giving them things to say, after all if dad has been gone awhile , the child may not know what to say. Tell them that when the absent parent calls, they just need to say “I love you Daddy” and be content with that at first. Encourage them , when something great happens at daycare or elsewhere, say something like:”wow, lets tell dad about that when he calls next!” Then, you can remind them of what they wanted to tell, when he does call.

Don’t indulge the feelings of the little ones on this issue. Yes, they have a hard time, but it is never to early to help them see that their choices effect everyone around them, and they can choose to be compassionate helpers. Their job of giving love and encouragement to others is in their power!

I would love to hear if you have ever had to deal with this. What did you do? Did it help?

Military Kids and Christmas :Making Deployment a Time of Growth for Young Children

December 16, 2008

A parent being deployed at Christmas is sure a hard thing for a little one to cope with, but here are some ideas for making the holiday brighter and more meaningful.

*The photo is of my 7 year old granddaughter hanging an ornament that her Daddy made when he was her age. She was excited when we got it out of the box, and after looking at the date it was determined that he had been only a little bit younger than she is now. It made a sweet connection for her as she proudly hung it on our tree. Maybe you have something that represents your child’s absent parent, even if it is not a traditional ornament…tie a string to it, and let the child hang it. It may be a photo, or a piece of jewelery, or even a silly thing, like a comb that is the parents…no matter…you just want that reminder hanging there!

* Have your children look through their toys and choose two or three that might be given to children that do not have so much at Christmas. Let them choose and be sure these are not things that the kids will later regret giving. Loss is often overcome with generosity. Giving feels good. It also gives the kids a good story to tell the absent parent when they call home!

* Bake something wonderful! I did this the other day with my granddaughter. I taught her how to make the scotch shortbread recipe passed down from her great great grandmother. I had a chance to tell her about the country of Scotland and pieces of her heritage. Make some time to talk about and pass on your Christmas traditions.

* Make up a special Christmas prayer for the parent who is not with you. This can keep that parent close by, and your shared faith makes the miles disappear for a moment.

* Be sure you take the time to pull a child on your lap and tell them about your faith, what Christmas means to you, and maybe some of the Christmas memories you have of being a child. Children love to hear about their parents being kids!

Try making up a story, if you like doing that, about what it may have felt like in the manger that night long ago, or read the Bible account of the Lord’s birth. Have the kids draw a picture of what they imagine it to be like, to send to the deployed parent. That way everyone gets to focus for a moment on the real meaning of Christmas.

No amount of planning and doing makes the holiday without a loved one easy, but sharing real time with kids is a way to say I love you… a way they will remember. You are a military family, you are resilient, remind the kids and yourself that this too you will triumph over, and there will be a day of reunion.

May you be blessed this Christmas, and heartfelt thanks to those who defend, while we sit safe at home. May the Lord bless each one of you, and truly give you the gifts of peaceful hearts and safety.

Christmas packages during Deployment: get those Kids involved!

November 20, 2008

On the occasion of our sons first deployment, I could not stand that he would miss Christmas. I set up the tree, filled the stockings, cooked the turkey and baked the pies…all in October. (our new book We Serve Too!2, soon to be released ,mentions this!) This year, we have to do what most military families are doing, thinking about Christmas before Thanksgiving. I am not an expert at packing Chritmas boxes, but lots of good ideas can be had at the link below: http://awtr.blogspot.com/2007/11/christmas-care-package-ideas-for.html The point of this blog is to encourage you to include your children in creating the boxes that will be shipped to your service member! Kids love Christmas, kids love packages and kids love their deployed parents! This is an opportunity to teach them that the giving is truly the best part of the season, by making them major players in filling the box.

My grandchidren and I spent last night , getting the giggles and outright laughter as we recorded a message to Daddy on his recordable Christmas card from Hallmark. Ours plays jingle bells after the sweet voices of his kids shout “Merry Christmas Daddy!” The giggles came into play as we had to practice this short message, and then try the recording 4 or 5 times before we got it right! After we had it the way we wanted it, we pretended to be Daddy opening his card. This was a bit sobering, and we could feel the great pleasure he would get from this ( and a tear for me ). The children worked on some home made cards and artwork to add to the box. We had filled his camosock (see my post on camosock, it has a link) and made sure that the sunscreen his 4 year old had insisted on was in there. We added the nutcracker dressed in combat gear, and used tootsie rolls for packing peanuts. The kids were thrilled with the idea that Daddy would get this heartfelt gift, a peice of ourselves was in there. Merry Christmas Daddy! Enjoy your holidays and make sure to get those kids involved!

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.