So you know we really love books around here. One other thing you should know about me, I am a military spouse. My husband has served for almost 22 years. On Monday he left for a 10 month deployment. Let that sink in a minute… This will be his 6th deployment, his 4th since we’ve been together, and his first since our daughter was born. This will be the toughest one yet, and unfortunately the longest. Back in May he left for a 5 week trip, and my daughter asked me where Daddy lives. I teared up, but was able to keep it together and tried to explain to her that he lived here with us, but was on a long trip. How in the world would I explain to her to her that he would be gone for almost an entire year??
I remember reading so many books to her, preparing her for all of her short life’s major moments and milestones. Saying goodbye to the pacifier, potty training, getting a big girl bed. Living in Virginia Beach, where there are 5 major military bases within 15 minutes of our house, our library has a few books about military life. There were a few great books that I found, that could explain deployments so much better than I could have in my own words.
While You Are Away by Eileen Spinelli follows three families, with three military members who are serving in different ways. All three are deployed, and their children talk about the things they will do while their family members are away. Doing all of their favorite things helps them to remember the fun they have together, and help them feel connected and close even when their mom or dad may be far away.
The Wishing Tree by Mary Redman and Christina Rodriguez focuses on one little girl named Amanda. Her father is away for a year, and finds a special way to mark his absence and to look forward to his return. She ties a ribbon to a small tree, each ribbon has a wish, a prayer, a memory written on it.
I loved When Dad’s at Sea, by Mindy Pelton. It related best to our upcoming deployment, and was about a Navy pilot who is preparing to deploy. He and his daughter decide to make a paper chain to mark each day they will be apart. Out of frustration and anger she rips the chain apart, this is the feeling we can really identify with. There is always fear and sadness, but what you can’t really imagine is the anger that also comes. After ripping the chain apart her parents stay up late the night before he leaves and makes another one.
My daughter’s favorite was The Paper Hug by Stephanie Skolmoski. This sweet little boy is heartbroken that his father is deploying, and decides to make a paper hug by tracing his hands and cutting them out and attaching them with a string that is the measured length between his two hands outstretched. After reading this, there was an immediate request to make “the hands”. This is the result, and it will be in my husband’s first care package that we are preparing to send tomorrow.
Separation and deployments never get easier. I’m sure we’ll survive, but it won’t be easy. We’ll find special ways to stay connected while he’s away. We’ll pray for him daily, and he’ll always be in our hearts. I love these books, and what they do for a special group of children. For any other military families out there, what are your coping strategies?