This deployment has been weird. Partly because, well, I'm kind of tired. And by "kind of" I mean "really." A lot. I also feel guilty about being so tired, because even though Air Force Guy has been gone more than he's been home the last few years, I also know that it could always be worse.
But as Sarah said before, deployments are like snowflakes. And for this one it's been easier for me to just keep my head down, my feet moving forward, and think about other things. Like Boston Cream Pie. Or looking forward to my next boxing class when I get to hit things in a socially acceptable manner (and work off that Boston Cream Pie).
But this is also the first deployment my husband has had where my son has boy issues come up while Dad is gone. And figuring out THAT maze has been interesting, to say the least.
Right off the bat I can say that one of the major problems with "boy issues" is that if you talk to someone who is not familiar with military families they often start bringing up the role model excuse. As in, "What your son needs is a good male role model."
Well, my son HAS a good male role model. He thinks his Dad is a superhero, for goodness sake! He writes him letters - well, draws him pictures anyway, he makes lists of things to discuss with his father (like the types of weaponry in use in Star Wars movies and how they compare to the Wii game) when AFG is home, and his future plans all include his Dad. And he has never been disappointed - my son knows his Dad will be there for him, just as he knows his Dad is doing something very important and necessary.
He's put on his super suit and gone to save the world again. And while it's not fun, the boy is full-to-bursting proud of Dad.
My son does NOT need another male role model. Thankyewverymuchindeed.
On the other hand, right now he's living in a house with three women and a pet ratio that is 2:1 female and the male is fixed. There's a distinct lack of testosterone in this house, and it was getting to him. He was having some behavioral issues that I just could not seem to get a handle on. Nothing bad - he just seemed to have too much energy, he was getting into everything, he was climbing, he was jumping, he was loud... In short, he was being a boy and I didn't know how to manage that.
When we lived on base it was a bit easier - guys in a military community often seem to step up when Dads are gone - one Dad taking his kids to the park usually ends up playing with all the other kids that are at the park at the same time. It's an understood thing. You don't have to go searching someone out to do "boy stuff" with your boy, which is a weird conundrum in itself. I mean, what a fine line to walk! And how do you explain that to someone who doesn't instinctively get it?
"Hi, my son needs a man to play boy games with tomorrow so that he'll go to sleep without playing Airborne off the top bunk with a pillowcase parachute. I mean, he's got a Dad who's very active when he's home, and you have to be very careful not to give off vibes to my son that you're trying to usurp Dad's place because that would really cause resentment. His Dad doesn't need to be replaced, he just needs to play football with someone that's not Mom sometimes. Because, let's face it, ESTROGEN OVERLOAD. Also, he needs help with his race car thingie for Boy Scouts, because I have no CLUE what to do with that one. But arms length and all that. In fact, maybe you should only do boy stuff with my son in a group of other boys. That might work best for everyone. Oh, and you probably need to know my husband, or at least ask a lot of questions about him, because the kid relates everything in life to his Dad in some way or another. If it's not too much to ask. Oh - and discipline. Don't be all 'you poor boy' with my son and let him off when he's bad. He doesn't feel sorry for himself, and he doesn't understand why anyone would think there's anything sad or pitiful about his life. He will go right for the jugular if he senses weakness. Kthxbai."
Yeah, I can see that not going over entirely well...
Luckily part of the problem there is easily solved - my brother is only 5 hours away (and after about 15 years of this lifestyle, 5 hours seems like practically next door) and so the birthday wish of playing paintball and pugil stick fighting will be spent with another military guy who is a relative and gets the situation. And will probably face the same situation himself with his boys, so there's that whole community thing going on.
But on a day to day basis I was stumped. I figured Cub Scouts would help - and it does, very much. But at this age it's a twice a month deal. My son still needed something more.
For my son it turned out to be boxing. He attends my classes with me and waits while I work out. Then he attends his own children's class. I think there's a certain special dynamic for boys in sports anyway - and I think it certainly helps with the testosterone time! And, this was very important for my son in particular, he could relate everything he was learning to his Dad. Dad is off fighting, my son is learning to fight. Dad does Krav Maga, my son is learning his own techniques. And it is definitely a male-heavy sport. When AFG was home on R&R, the boxing coaches all made a point of introducing themselves and then discussion on fighting techniques ensued - a discussion my son got to be a part of.
It worked out perfectly.
Of course, what works for us is not what works for everyone. And different kids have different unique issues. I'd love to hear from others (moms or dads) who have figured the maze of raising a boy with a good father, but while Dad was at war. It's a unique situation; single parenting, but not really single parenting. And it's got to be tremendously hard for Dad as well, to long distance role model and strike that balance. I think a lot must depend on having good, trustworthy friends and family around to step up and strike just the right balance - but that's sometimes something we just don't have.
What we do have, though, is each other - here. And I'd love to know how others dealt with this situation.