Friday, May 14, 2010

Double Duty Deployment Parenting

For those of my new followers who don't know, I'm a columnist for Blue Star Families, a fantastic organization for military families.  And if I can squeeze in a plug for them, they are currently conducting their Military Family Lifestyle Survey.  Let your military voice be heard.  Please take 15 minutes out of your day to complete the survey!  And hey, you could win some money too.

Here is my latest Blue Star Families post...

Double Duty Deployment Parenting

A few weeks ago my son, New Man of the House, was supposed to attend the opening ceremonies kicking off his baseball season. I suited him up in his new uniform and dropped his sister off at a friend’s house so I could focus my full attention on his exciting day. I watched as New Man proudly trotted over to his team and joined them in a catch. But before I could finish introducing myself to the other moms, a fastball made a direct hit to New Man’s face.

After assessing the damage, I directed New Man away from the crime scene as he fought to catch his breath through sobs. He begged me to take him home, while I mentally searched my pep talk database to find the right words to convince him to stay. I knew his pride was more injured than his face, and I didn’t want him to regret missing the ceremony. But nothing I said changed his mind, and when he locked himself in the car, I had no choice but to tell the coach we were leaving before the festivities even began.

As I stood in the crowded parking lot with my hysterical son clutching my leg and my useless words hitting upon deaf ears, all I could think was, “If my husband were here, he’d know what to say. He’d have New Man laughing and sprinting back onto that field in less time than it took to exchange a high five.” But my husband wasn’t there. I am the dad now. And at that moment, I was failing miserably as a father.

For me, the hardest part of this deployment is my new role as Interim Dad. How am I supposed to replace someone who is irreplaceable? I don’t tickle the kids the way he does. I don’t make up silly stories for them at the dinner table the way he does. I don’t even make them smile the way he does. Being a father extends far beyond the realm of chasing the kids around the backyard, taking them fishing, or teaching them how to change the oil in the car. Somehow, a father offers his children a special kind of love and affection that a mother can’t.

As Interim Dad, I’m pulling double duty in the discipline department as well. And unfortunately, my children are well aware that I’m outnumbered. I can no longer threaten them to clean up their toys before Daddy gets home from work or bribe them with a post-dinner Wii marathon with Daddy if they can manage to stop fighting for more than five minute stretches. They know I’m the only grown-up in the house. They know that at the end of the day, my tag team partner won’t be coming home to relieve me. Consequently, their misbehavior is inversely proportional to my energy level.

I may not be the father my children want me to be, but they can’t fault me for trying. After all, I bought New Man his first athletic cup (and I think I deserve at least a Father’s Day card for that task). More importantly, despite the opening ceremonies incident, I managed to get my son back on the ball field the following week for his first game and the week after that for his second. At that second game, as his teammates warmed up their throwing arms with their fathers, I grabbed my mitt and lined up with all the men. I’m far from the perfect substitute for my husband, but there I was, the only mom out there with her son, the only mom pretending to be a dad. And although I throw like a girl, I know my son appreciated my efforts.

As far as the other roles this Domestic Engineer acquired during the deployment, they’re a walk in the park compared to my role as Interim Dad. Fix-It Man? I’ve already skillfully power-drilled my way through re-hanging the blinds on our newly installed windows. Master of Wii? No problem. As long as I continue scheduling playdates, New Man’s friends will take care of that. And Lawn Doctor? If the grass grows faster than I can mow it, I have no shame in resorting to Plan B: my checkbook.


If you're interested in reading my other Blue Star Families posts, click away...
Let the Roller Coaster Begin
The Conspicuous Absence of Presence
Interview With a Military Brat
Adapting Behavior During Deployment



21 comments:

  1. This was so touching! You said it perfectly too. I am a Navy wife and I have dealt with my husband being gone for three 11-month long deployments, and that was before our daughter was born. I have yet to experience a deployment with her and I am not looking forward to it.

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  2. I actually just got kind of misty eyed reading that - thank you for sharing!

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  3. Awwww....what a sweet story...and so well written :-) I love that you play catch with him....that is great! I bet he's so proud to have you as Mom (and interim Dad).

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  4. glad to know i'm not the only one doing double duty and struggling. have a great weekend!

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  5. Great post. It makes me teary eyed. I just can't imagane my husband next deployment when I will have two daughters to take care of all by myself with out him.
    We have been through 2 deployments, the second deployment he missed out on his oldest daughters birth. That was hard, but what is going to be harder is to try and be Mrs. Dad for 7months, and explain for them where daddy is. But until then, we have a year (hopefully) to enjoy together.
    Thanks for sharing. Stay strong.

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  6. This brought tears to my eyes because I understand PERFECTLY. You just put better words to my thoughts.

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  7. what a fantastic post! from the point of view of the child whose parent is deployed, they will always remember the sacrifices you made for them and love you all the more for it.
    :)
    thank you for sharing, you're a great writer!

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  8. Loved it! There were tears in my eyes but it also made me smile.

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  9. Can I just say that the line "How am I supposed to replace someone who is irreplaceable?" was like you were reading my mind.

    That basically sums up 99% of my parenting issues while Hubby is gone. The other 1% is that sometimes Momma just needs a break :-)

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  10. very well said! great article!

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  11. Oh - I teared up during that... I know exactly what you mean - I'm not a mil wife, but my husband travels, and he's the one that can get the kids from crying to laughing hysterically in minutes - and I don't seem to have that touch - we miss it terribly when he's gone! Hugs to you.

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  12. I cried. As always. I just am in more awe of you than ever. I know a deployment will be hard for me but I won't have to step in as Father. You're incredible!

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  13. what a wonderful job. to write about the military. i remember during last deployment we had a broken bone. i thoght he was just being overly sensitive until a friend said it was really broken.
    so hard to keep it all together

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  14. "Mrs. Dad" doesn't sound as cute as "Mr. Mom", does it? I am not knocking those male milspouses in case anyone asks. ;) I went through a similar situation last year with baseball. Have you heard of a book called "Dare to Repair"? It is something we give out in out Compass class we hold for Navy spouses. It has a picture of Rosie the Riveter on the front- it tells you how to make all sorts of home repairs- pretty cool book. We tell the wives to hide it when their hubbies are home. ;)

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  15. You do need to let people know all that you do. People just don't realize the life of the military spouse at home.

    It's not just waiting..as if that weren't hard enough, it's the household, the yardwork, the interim dad, you deserve some sort of accolade. Just because you step up to the plate.

    You are something.

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  16. What a great post. Having to be mom and dad is really really hard :(

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  17. Perfectly put and expertly worded. You couldn't have said it better.

    Hang in there; a break is coming...

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  18. My two eldest kids are older now than they were the last time Dh was deployed and easier to get along with... My eldest is 16 now and the only boy. I think he needs his dad more than ever now as he continues to learn how to be a man. I, too, do my best... It's not easy, but it sounds as though you're doing great! I'm here cheering for you, and all of us that are currently doing double duty!

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  19. Thanks for the encouraging comments everyone! It's always nice to know there are others out there in the same boat. Have a great weekend everyone! And happy Armed Forces Day!

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  20. I loved this post! Yes, I cried reading it - but I cry at everything, since I am pregnant. :) And I agree with Dawna's comment, the older they get, the more they need their dads. My 15 year old barely made it 3 days into this deployment before he had a meltdown, and is now staying with my parents for awhile. I am so thankful to at least have MY dad nearby, although he works full time.
    And I am getting better at some of the 'dad' stuff. :) I was the only mom who even WENT to any of the basketball practices this season for my ten year old, and when the coach asked parents to step in to do drills at practice, I was usually on the court faster than any of the dads - except when I forgot to change from flip-flops to tennies. And I think I yelled at the ref's more than all the dads combined! LOL

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  21. Kudos ... great and very true post. my best to you all as the life of a military mom during deployments is never easy. I remember those days all too well. God bless you all!

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