Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview With a Military Brat

April is the Month of the Military Child, and I wanted to find a way to show my children that the sacrifices they make on a daily basis during their father’s current deployment don’t pass unnoticed. I’m well aware of how my husband’s deployment is affecting me, but it’s easy to forget that my children bear the brunt of their father’s absence as well.


What could I do beyond what I was already doing? Since my husband’s departure, I’ve been the ambassador of hugs, I’ve been more tantrum-tolerant, and I’ve made mountains of Play Doh pizzas and Lego configurations. But I had yet to carve out time to talk.

Simple? Yes. Trivial. Absolutely not. With a pad of paper and pen in hand, I interviewed my 6-year-old son to catch a glimpse of military life from the eyes of a military brat.

MOM: How do you feel about Dad being gone a lot?

BRAT: Kind of good and kind of bad.

MOM: How is it good?

BRAT: Because sometimes I get to have sleepovers with you. And I get to talk to Dad on the phone.

MOM: How is it bad?

BRAT: The bad thing is that I miss him.

MOM: How are things different when Dad is gone?

BRAT: We don’t get to talk to each other a lot. We don’t get to play games together. He can’t read books to me. We can’t play Wii or ride on the John Deere. We can’t go camping or golfing. We can’t have Boys’ Days. But when he’s gone, I’m the man of the house.

MOM: What do you do as the man of the house?

BRAT: I take showers by myself and get aftershave. I can have a messy room. I take care of my sister more.

MOM: What’s your favorite thing about having a dad in the military?

BRAT: He wears a lot of cool uniforms. He shoots bad guys. [Author’s note: I’ve never known my husband to shoot bad guys, but evidently my son thinks he does.] I am proud of him.

MOM: Do you think Dad’s job in the military is important?

BRAT: Yes, because he has to do good things.

MOM: Like what?

BRAT: Go around the world. Capture pirates. [Author’s note: I’ve also never known my husband to capture pirates. Brat sure does have an active imagination!]

MOM: When you grow up, do you want to be in the military?

BRAT: No.

MOM: Why not?

BRAT: Because I want to be a policeman so I can chase people and put them in jail.

MOM: Do you wish Dad wasn’t in the military?

BRAT: Yes, so he would always stay home.

MOM: Is it hard moving and making new friends?

BRAT: I don’t like that my old friends forget about me.

MOM: Do you ever wish we could stay in one house forever?

BRAT: No. I want to move around the world and see how it is.

MOM: What advice would you give to kids whose dads are also in the military and are gone a lot?

BRAT: Draw your dad pictures and write letters. Go outside and run around. Call your grandparents if you have grandparents.

MOM: What are you going to say to Dad the next time you talk to him?

BRAT: I’m good at baseball. And I wish you would come home this second. That’s how much I miss him. Don’t ask me any more questions Mom. It makes me sad.

On that note, we ended the interview with a bear hug and a bowl of watermelon.

The entire conversation lasted a mere 15 minutes, but the impact those 15 minutes left on both of us is priceless. It reminded me of the importance of keeping the lines of communication with my children open. Like many of the children we celebrate this month, my son has unresolved feelings about this life he was involuntarily born into. The interview hopefully taught him that he can talk freely about those feelings without fear of judgment. At six years old, his concepts of time and distance are undeveloped and his understanding of our lifestyle and his father’s absences is limited, but he clearly understands that not all families go through the challenges that we do.

Regardless of whether your family is coping with a deployment, an upcoming PCS move, or simply military life in general, make time for discussions with your children. Use some of the above questions as conversation starters or brainstorm other age-appropriate prompts. Let your child dictate the pace and direction of your questions and encourage him to ask you questions. If your child doesn’t initially respond or isn’t able to verbalize his feelings, break the ice by shifting the focus to yourself. His unwillingness to confide in you may change once he hears his own thoughts mirrored in your words. And don’t give up. Even if the conversation drifts from military-focused to something completely different, you might just learn something about your child in the process.

A few minutes after Big C’s abrupt ending of the interview, I was pleasantly surprised when he requested an interview with me. When he asked me if I missed my own dad, I knew I had accomplished my goal. My answer that yes, I do miss my father, proved to him that what he’s feeling is normal and it’s perfectly acceptable to admit it.

I hope this is the first of many meaningful discussions to come. Maybe next time he’ll give me the scoop on those bad guys and pirates.

(In case you were wondering, I attempted to interview my other brat, but the only answer I could squeeze out of my 2-year-old daughter was: “Daddy on a big trip. More watermelon please.”)

This post in my latest contribution to Blue Star Families.  Go check them out.  They're awesome!


11 comments:

  1. This post was so sweet! And your son's answers were so thoughtful and honest. I especially liked the part about the pirates lol. What a good idea to interview him. :)

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  2. Awww! That just yanked at my heart strings. Being a military brat myself (and now mommy to one) I understand where he is coming from. My dad retired when I was about 9 but I remember when he was gone for the Persian Gulf War and I remember moving, leaving behind my friends was the toughest. As a child it was the worst thing ever being a military brat but now that I'm older I'm so thankful that I was one, it made me such a stronger person because of it. I'm happy that your son realizes the good sides of military life. :)

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  3. Wow. Thanks for sharing this. We don't have kids yet, but this conversation has answered several of my concerns. Big C is quite a mature 6 year old, I gotta say. And I think it's fantastic at, even though he hates how much his daddy is gone and wants him to be here "right this second," he's still proud of his daddy and his daddy's job. That's a lot for even an adult to process, I think.

    (And I don't fault him for thinking Daddy kills bad guys. I remember, right after the war started back in '01, hearing about a few teachers who were caught telling their students who had military parents that their parents were murderers and babykillers. So yeah, I'd rather have him think he was closer to Superman than Lex Luther.)

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  4. That was very sweet. Reading it brought tears to my eyes. Mu oldest is 4 and he is starting to get it. I have a hard time explaining it so he will understand.

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  5. This interview makes me sad too, not only for your family, but other military families.

    I like how your son tells other kids to go outside and run around :) That's sweet.

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  6. What a wonderful post. What a great idea to talk with your son in an interview style about something so personal and painful to make it easier for him to talk - and how about that, he came and interviewed you afterwards. What great advice for other families living life as you do too.

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  7. Wow. Out of the mouth of babes...

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  8. oh wow! great post! definetly tugged at my heart strings...what a wonderful idea to interview your children and get a glimpse into what they are thinking. thank you for sharing.

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  9. Wow. This post totally made me cry. But I'm going to focus on watermelon and pirates instead. XOXOXXO Big hugs to all.

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  10. PS You are an amazing writer. And your son is incredibly brilliant, awesome, honest, and lovely.

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  11. We agree totally with Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip...

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