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My Child’s First Heartache

Today, I witnessed my six year old son experience his first heartache; extreme emotional anguish. As a parent, my first rule is to shield my children from irreparable trauma or pain and I can only hope that today is repairable or forgotten.

My six year old is a military child whose dad is in active duty service. In all his six years of life, daddy has never deployed or been away for too long. Today marks the 26th day since his dad left on deployment for an estimated three month duration. This means no FaceTime, no more funny voice memos, no texting, no more 24/7 access to the person he’s always had 24/7 access with. He can no longer just pick up the phone to call daddy and ask, “what time are you coming home?” so he can wait outside for him to pull up.

With only a few weeks notice before the deployment, it’s safe to say none of us were suitably prepared for the emotional ride we were abruptly thrown into. As partners, we agreed the deployment would serve beneficial for promotion probability, but as parents, neither of us fully grasped the emotional void onto our children. In all transparency, I’m unsure if we even considered it.

At the end of watching one of our favorite movies, Deep Blue Sea, my son began to cry and whimper in a way I had never seen before. It was like he was more than sad – like he was hurt or in pain. Through all the tears, he cried, “I miss Daddy so much.” This continued and repeated three more times in the same hour. It was as if his heart was actually aching or expressing hurt.

These moments of watching my little boy ache in pain for how much he misses his daddy, forced me to recognize and acknowledge that the pressure of our decisions as parents weigh heavily onto our children. Some children may not obviously express these pressures, while some children may express them in confusing ways. Today, I quickly recognized the plight of the military child and the plight of the military family. I also recognized a shortcoming in my parenting during this tough phase and see now, how I can do better to empathize with and support my child.

As parents, it is so easy to make decisions without talking to or checking in with our children but the truth is, these decisions impact them in a big way also. Let’s try to include them and support them throughout these big family moments.

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