Counting Down The Days...
A child's sense of time is much different from an adult. Deployments can seem like they last forever without having smaller goals to look forward to. Here, Jennifer Hamrick describes ideas on how to countdown the days during a deployment.
We sent our dad and best friend off on December 6th, knowing that he’d be gone for two consecutive Christmases. There was nothing fun about that at all. We were in that window of time when soldiers leaving knew they were going for fifteen months. I’m forever grateful we were aware of that before he left rather than having his tour extended at the last minute like had happened to so many others in the previous year. I think knowing it was going to be fifteen months made it so much more bearable. My heart broke for those who were expecting their loved ones home within weeks only to be told they had to wait another three months.
Still, knowing Matt was going to be gone for so long meant I had some strategic parenting on my list of things to do. We had three sons at the time, ages six, four, and three, who were way too young to look that far down the road to his return.
The way I kept the countdown easy to see and understand was by planning something fun each month for us to look forward to. That way we counted down to something that was less than 30 days away, rather than focusing on the main objective, which was daddy’s return.
Some months we had very large events to look forward to, like flying back home to North Carolina to spend a few weeks with family. One month I planned a week-long camping trip… just the four of us. Some months we knew a friend’s birthday party was going to be held at Chuck-E-Cheese’s so I’d build that up in their minds so they looked forward to that event… and they did. Boy, do my kids love that place.
Having something on the calendar that they could see coming up soon was vital for our sons’ ability to pass the time while daddy was away. I honestly believe I needed this as much as they did. The cost of the event made little difference in how excited my boys got because it was simply something designed to help the time pass. Children get excited over what we get excited over. I fully believe our children take their cues from us and if we can be excited over the next duty station, a new challenge, a chance to make even more friends, then our children will do the same. They will adapt much more easily to the challenges we face as a military community if they watch us making the best of each one.