By Josie Beets
“But I don’t want to go to day care. I want to stay here and wait for daddy to come home from Afghanistan.”
For a three-year-old, she pronounces the country where daddy’s deployed with remarkable accuracy. But her diction is not what’s stabbing a knife of emotion into my stomach. Daddy’s only been gone for twenty-two hours, and I’m not ready for her to be this far along in her stages of deployment comprehension. Also, it’s 6:10 in the morning, and if we don’t leave the house in the next twenty minutes, I’m late to work.
“Daddy’s going to be gone for lots of days, remember?” I mange to eek out, swallowing the ginormous lump in my throat. I tell her it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to miss daddy, mommy misses him too. This does not appease her. “How ’bout a kiss?” “OKAY!”
While I wish I had the power to ease my child’s tears with a well-placed peck on the cheek, the truth is it takes chocolate. At 6:10 in the morning. (With my apologies to her day care.) We have a “Kisses from Daddy” jar, filled with Hershey’s Kisses. She gets one when she misses daddy, or more commonly, when mommy needs her to get scootin’ in the morning.
It is the most depressing collection of candy known to man.
Each day is full of unexpected deployment-related emotional minefields. Several inquires from well-meaning co-workers have ended up with us both in tears. The radio is a constant source of emotional terrorism — you do NOT want to be around me when that Macklemore gay marriage song comes on. And my first trip to the post office ended up with me in controlled sobs, over-sharing with the postal clerk (“I’m sorry, it’s just this box will see him before I will… *sniffleSOB*”).
This overindulgent raw emotion actually makes me feel more normal. Army normal, that is. For the first days after I dropped my husband off in the rain and sent him to That Place With The Shooting, I was in a sort of state of grace. My living room was no longer a sea of MultiCam. I was really hitting my rhythm with our schedule. I no longer marveled at the male species’ inability to throw empty things in the trash. The burden of cooking a full, adult meal was lifted, freeing me up to eat popcorn and cookie batter for dinner. It was great.
Then, I started to think I wouldn’t mind a little MultiCam. I started posting photos of my husband on Facebook, a place I normally keep for pictures of the kids doing something life-threatening, cute, or both. I thought about buying blue star pin to wear to work.
Perhaps I am a normal Army spouse lamenting the temporary absence of her beloved, and becoming appropriately sappy when anyone uttered the word freedom. Or, and this feels infinitely more likely, I am losing my ever-loving mind.
Regardless, it is now clear that I have not adequately emotionally prepared for this deployment. Granted, like a good lawyer/nerd (lawyer-nerd?), I have read every book, scoured every website, watched (and, yes, cried at) every wonderful Sesame Street special tailored for military families. At this point, all I’m sure of is there is not an appropriate amount of deployment prep you can do for young kids, or for bigger, more adult kids.
So bring on the Hershey’s Kisses.
Josie Beets is an attorney, military spouse, and mom. When she’s not at her day job (which she loves – hi boss!) she is Online Editor of the Military Spouse JD Network. You can also follow her on Twitter @JosieBeets.