Parenting is hard on a good day. Add bad days, and deployment days, and it can feel disheartening and overwhelming. Meet my internet friend Jana and the community that surrounded her on a bad deployment day.
My husband is active duty Air Force. Two years ago he was deployed for a year. At the time, our two boys and I were living on base surrounded by other military families, most of whom had also experienced year long deployments. My mother was in town helping me with the children. I had left the house to run some errands and left my boys with my mom.
The deployment was hard on them. They missed their daddy. At four and six years of age, it was hard for them to understand why daddy had to be away. They would often have outbursts of anger or tears, many tantrums and emotions.
While I was away, my mother went to collect them from the bus stop. The four year old refused to walk home with her and instead wanted to stay and play with friends. My mother tried various things, but ultimately had to pick him up and walk him home. He fought her and ended up tripping her and she fell on the sidewalk, injuring herself. My neighbor, an Army Lt Col, was driving by. He had witnessed the incident and stopped to see if he could help. I knew this family well. He was a kind, loving gentleman and cared for my boys. He did what he could in that moment and then headed back to work.
When I returned home, I was saddened to hear what had happened. I knew my son was struggling with having another adult, not his daddy, care for him. I knew he was angry, sad, confused, but, I also knew I needed to deal with this incident and help him understand his disrespect. So, I called my neighbor who had witnessed the incident. I asked if he would be willing to come over after work, in his uniform, and spend some time with my son talking about what happened. I wanted an authority figure other than me to gently correct him and love on him in an effort to help him understand that how he acted was wrong. Of course, had daddy been home, he would have been the one filling this role. However, it seemed God had provided the perfect “substitute”.
My neighbor came to the door at 6:30 in the evening, in uniform, and spent forty five minutes with my four year old son playing Legos in his room. While they played, he discussed wtih him the incident and tried to help him understand how his actions were wrong and how important it was for him to respect his grandmother. He even dialogued with him about missing his daddy, about why his daddy was away and the important job he was doing helping other people.
I listened from the other room as my son shared his heart with this man and basked in this man’s comapssion and love. In the absence of his daddy, this man filled his shoes for a moment and loved on my son like only a father can. I am forever grateful.