Life is a series of moments we string together that produce memories of experiences. The most important thing is to create experiences that will be positive, especially during times when children experience disruption, change of routine or complete removal from what they understand to be their normal life.
My husband is an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) Technician for the US Air Force, and with that comes deployments and TDY (Temporary Duty) Assignments. We were extremely fortunate because the first four years of our marriage and first three years of my son’s life, my husband was assigned to the EOD Naval Training School as an instructor. This made his deployment unlikely, and he actually never received orders to deploy while we were in Florida. I knew the day would arrive, however, when that would end, but I knew when I married him that his deployments and TDYs would become a natural part of my life and our family’s life.
In September 2014, we left the only home my 3 year old son and 3 month old daughter had known and moved to Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mid-January 2015, my husband deployed to Kuwait for six months. The hardest part of him leaving was watching him say goodbye to the kids. It tore me up inside because I could see how much he was going to miss holding them. I was definitely going to miss him, and I have to admit that I was anxious and scared because this would be my first time alone with both children for that length of time in a town that was fairly new to me. Modern, non-wartime deployments do make it much easier to survive these times, but they are still difficult.
With the modern conveniences of wi-fi, we were able to connect with my husband almost every day on Google Hangouts. He could see the changes in the kids daily, and was able to spend some time with them every day. We could also message each other whenever we needed to. Though this is nothing compared to having a person with you, it definitely makes the time away from him slightly easier.
With my husband gone, I decided that I wanted to do my best to make the time pass quickly and keep my children engaged, doing positive things, during this time of disruption in their lives. It was especially difficult for my son because he had never experienced Daddy being gone for longer than a few days. His potty accidents increased and he regressed slightly with feeding himself and staying in his own bed the whole night. These were things that I accepted and helped him through. In time, we got into a routine with storytimes at the library and the museums in our area. I made friends with one of the moms from storytime, and was thankful that I had an adult to communicate with almost daily. It helped too that our sons played well together and enjoyed being with one another. Finding other moms to spend time with definitely helped me stay sane. I wanted something more to keep my children and I from dwelling on the fact that we were missing Daddy.
One of my friends from Florida came out to Park City and invited us up for however long we wanted to stay. At first, I was overwhelmed with the thought of traveling with two small children by myself, but I decided there was not a reason in the world that it was not possible. After a successful, fun and memorable trip, I decided that even though I was exhausted and it was not easy to pack up both kids and travel, it was worth every drip of sweat. I made the decision that for every month that my husband was gone, we would travel somewhere and make it a fun adventure. This kept my son excited and passed the time by faster because it gave us something to look forward to. Not only that, but I was able to show my son and daughter the tallest trees in the world, the mighty redwoods, and the Golden Gate Bridge. We went to Sea World, and the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. We spent time with family and they became excellent car travelers.
We traveled to San Diego a couple of times to visit my parents, siblings and Grandmother, went one more time to Park City for a mini reunion of a few friends from Florida, and traveled to San Francisco to visit my uncles and aunts. They were fun trips that helped us cope with my husband being gone. We also explored the city we lived in. We visited state parks, museums and National Parks. I tried to make sure we did something fun nearly every day. This helped my son’s stress level decrease, and he got back on track. We learned a great deal about Las Vegas that we didn’t know. I showed them the Valley of Fire, Red Rock Canyon, and the Colorado River. In July, we picked up my oldest daughter and went to Zion National Park for the day. Then it was only a couple of weeks before Daddy got back.
Looking back, I do remember being tired, but I treasure the expressions my son and daughters had when we explored new places, visited with family and friends, and learned new things about the world. Anytime there is a change in the household that throws the ‘norm’ of your child(ren)’s world off kilter, try doing something new. It doesn’t have to be a long trip, just something to bring discovery, wonder, and happiness back to the forefront. It can be something as simple as a new community park that they haven’t been to. This worked wonders for my family. We still missed my husband terribly, and not every day was anywhere near perfect, but we took the time we were dealt to be torn apart and made an adventure of it. Every family has to endure trying times, and during those times, as parents, we need to be there for our children and help them find the good and the positive side of things no matter how difficult it may be. Everything we did would have been much more enjoyable with Daddy by our sides, but now we can be his tour guide when we take him to all the wonderful places we have been.
Every day we are given is a gift. Find the blue sky in every day, no matter how gray it may be. A positive attitude is the best way to live life, and giving your children that positive start, even when things might be tough, will give them the ability to face any situation knowing that nothing is impossible and there is good to be found in every situation.