Being away from home is part the Army life; whether it is for months at a time or even just a few days away, the mission must continue. As our family has grown and changed, so has our need to stay connected across the miles. There are several things that have helped make the distance seem shorter and the time pass faster.
Before this current trip, my husband and I worked to prepare our toddler for what was happening. I have been traveling a lot for work lately, and he has been stuggling with some separation anxiety. We wanted to make sure that we could aknowledge what he was feeling, and comfort him during my absence.
In the week before my trip, we made sure that we stuck to the bedtime routine, but also made sure that both Daddy and I did it together. That way, our Son would know what to expect at bedtime no matter who was there.
We also talked to him about what would come next. When my departure day arrived, we were able to talk to him about each step of the plan. “We are going to go eat lunch now, and then we are taking Mommy to the airport.” Followed by, “now that lunch is over we are going to take Mommy to the airport, and she is going bye bye for a few days.” My husband was fantastic in explaining this to our Son! Building on his budding counting skills he told him “1, 2, 3, 4, then Mommy’s home!”
Saying goodbye is always difficult. I think it is very important to keep it as brief as possible so that my Son doesn’t feel overwhelmed by my leaving and that he can feel my confidence that I will return soon. If I take a long time to say goodbye, he may worry that this is a bigger deal than it really is. So, after a short goodbye I was off!
That is when the hard work really begins. My husband takes the reigns so capably during these times. He made a paper chain to help our Son count down the days until my return. He is very good at reading our Sons mood and knowing whether a call or FaceTime would make him happy or upset. It is so important to try to remember that more contact isn’t always better. Our son is very independent and resilient, but he has bad days too and we try to respect that and not make it worse.
On my end, I check in when I can. Depending on the reason for my trip, anywhere between one to three texts to my husband a day just to say “hello”, “I love you”, or “how’s the boy doing?” If its a good day I get to FaceTime with them at bedtime and be a part of our goodnight routine.
Before I return, we will do much of the same prep as well. My husband will talk to him about the day and let him know what will happen and when. They’ll pick me up at the airport, and we will get to have a happy hello. I try not to make a huge fuss over our hello either though. I feel that if I overemphasize our reuniting, then it would confirm to him that the separation was a bad thing and that in turn increases his anxiety when I inevitably have to leave again.
Traveling with the Army isn’t always easy, especially when it means missing my family. But working as a team to ease those times when we are apart helps to build up our family so that we can tackle the challenges of Army life together.