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