My oldest daughter's first word was "Daddy." The moment she laid eyes on her father she enjoyed being in his presence. Then he deployed.
My husband is a Chief Warrant Officer in the Army. He first deployed to Iraq from 2010 to 2011 when Jana was a year old. He is an intelligence specialist and his job was to help negotiate peace with the Afghans.
Jana began to throw tantrums even prior to his deployment. She had never done that before. She couldn't voice her feelings but I knew she missed him terribly.
When he returned in January of 2011 it was like Christmas all over again! I had never seen Jana so excited -- they were inseparable.
Then his unit began training to deploy again in 2012. My husband worked late nights and traveled to Arizona frequently. As a family, we felt cheated but he more than made up for it when he was home.
He deployed again to Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013 when Jana was 4-years-old. It was already an emotionally draining year for our family and the drastic change in Jana's behavior didn't help. I know every child's experience is different as it relates to a parents absence during deployment.
In our case, my child became quite obstinate. She all of a sudden was having frequent potty accidents. Yuck! She would do awful things to her little sister such as bite her and shut her up in a dark room. She kicked her teacher at school because she asked her to practice her handwriting.
I had enough of her behavior and was weary from pleading with her to act better. On one particular day, I asked her to go to her room again for misbehaving.
I'll never forget the way she looked at me solemnly and said, "Mommy, you're my best friend and Jaci's (her younger sister) my friend too. I'm sorry for being mean but I just miss my daddy."
From that moment on, I realized that my child’s misbehavior was a result of feeling hurt from her father’s absence. As a mom, I felt bad for my impatience and at times for being angry. Most importantly, I learned patience and the importance of learning to be emotionally sensitive to my child’s needs.
Inspired by my daughter I wrote a book called I Miss Daddy. I had a portrait artist to illustrate the characters in the book to resemble our family.When I presented it to my daughter she excitedly exclaimed, “Its Daddy and Jana!”
I also gave a copy to Jana’s teacher who shared it with her Pre-Kindergarten class. Jana’s teacher shared that she told her class her father was far away in Afghanistan. She also shared how she enjoyed receiving letters from him.
Not only did Jana’s behavior change for the better but my response and attitude towards her changed as well. Jana’s teacher also shared that Jana’s temper tantrums are very few and far between. Jana was also elected as her class Pre-Kindergarten Homecoming queen for the 2012 through 2013 school year!
I presented the book to my husband when he came home for R&R during Christmas of 2012. It's a special book for both my husband and daughter. It's an easy reader book with discussion questions at the end that I believe will help parents understand the impact of deployment upon their family and will provide their child hope and comfort during difficult times.
You can check it out by clicking here. The relationship between deployed dads and their kids is a special one. I hope my book helps other families. What else can deployed families do to stay close?Acacia Beumer is a proud Army wife and mother of two located in Fort Sam Houston, Texas She recently completed a graduate degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and looks forward to starting her career.