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Keeping Daddy Part of the Family

What if the kids don't know their Daddy when he gets back?  I'm assuming nearly anyone who has small children during a deployment asks this question.  My answer is that I make it impossible for them to forget.

First of all we talk about daddy every day, and we pray for him each night at bedtime.  It is the same simple prayer, "Dear God, keep Daddy safe so he can come home and see us. Amen." Something that simple is sometimes all it takes to remind my little ones of their Daddy, and teach them to focus on their faith in hard times.

CJ is around us all the time.  I copied a picture of him and laminated it so if one of the kids really needs their Daddy they can take him wherever they want.  I have found my son giving it a hut, and both of my kids talk to the picture ever now and then.  It has even made its way to dinner a few times.

I've found that my kids want and need different things to remind them of their dad while he is gone.  My daughter wants to know where he is at, what he lives in and she tells the other kids at preschool about bringing Daddy to a big bus that took him to the desert.  For her talking about CJ is the biggest thing.

My son needs to see Daddy.  He needs pictures and lots of them.  He looks through my phone at the pictures of his dad and watches every video of Daddy he can find.  At night he will not go to sleep without looking at our wedding album.  It is his comfort.  My daughter is sometimes interested in looking at pictures, but most of the time she really doesn't care.

Before my husband left we made "Daddy Bears" at Build-A-Bear.  My son sleeps with his every night.  My daughter doesn't really give hers much thought, and that is perfectly fine.  It surprised me that she isn't into it, but I will not push the issue.  It is really cute to see my son holding onto his at night.  I was initially worried about the cost, but we got the least expensive bears and only got the military outfit.  For both bears it was right around $50.00.

I am not crafty in any way, but I am trying to think of things for the kids to do.  Their favorite is super simple.  I put a picture of my husband on a little plastic tote with a lit that they can easily open.  I labeled the thing "Daddy's Art Box". We out all of their stuff from daycare in the box for when Daddy gets home.  They are both so proud when they get to out art in the box, and again there is a picture of him on the box.  Never let them forget his face.

The only other thing artiste wise I'm doing right now is writing down what they tell me their favorites are at the beginning of each month.  Favorite food, color, movie etc.  I just write it down on a paper and put it in an old mayonnaise jar I covered in cameo duct tape.  This way CJ can see how the kids answers have changed not only from when he left and got back home, but all the little month to month changes.

I have also purchased nearly every little kids book I can find that deals with deployment.  Some are great.  Others are not so great. Even the not so great ones get used here.  My 2-year-old son looks through them all and gives all the pictures of Daddy a hug.  I hear him flipping through the pages occasionally when he is playing alone.  Since we read the books so much at night I leave him alone when he is doing this.  It is important to me that I let them find their own relationship with CJ. I will help them along the way, but when they are making it work on their own I will not stop them.

I tried to have them help me make a care package for CJ, but they were not into it.  They each made a card for him, but they wouldn't do any more.  My daughter did find some of the candy I was packing and claimed some for herself.

Sometimes the things I think will be the best for my kids, like the care packages and the bear for my daughter, turn out to be a flop.  Do not get discouraged.  Make sure your kids are reminded of their father.  Let them know what they are ready to know about the deployment.  Mine know that daddy is in the desert far away, and that he flies hurt soldiers to hospitals.  They know he lives in a great big tent, and that he doesn't get phones there very often.  This is age appropriate, true and not scary.  I will probably not be telling the kids how the soldiers get hurt. They are too young for those facts.

Pleas leave a comment of the ways you and your families are keeping your soldier part of the family. What works for you? What things have flopped?

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