Friday, October 08, 2010

Should Military Families Adopt?: Part 3

While H was preparing to deploy January of last year I won't deny that I had a  few moments of panic.  We had spent the past year and a half assuring Prim that we were, in fact, here to stay.  That nighttime was not scary because we were all still together when the lights were out and that we would love her even when she fought us as if her life depended on it.

We were just beginning to see who she was beyond the hurt and fear when H left for Iraq and I was afraid that her smile would fade in the wake of her father's absence. Explaining to a three year old that Daddy is going on a long trip is pretty much the equivalent of telling her he'll be home tomorrow. She had no concept of time, no internal calendar to help mark the days gone by, so after the first week, when she was asking for Daddy to come back and I couldn't explain any better that the deployment was seven months long, we both wept.  I felt guilty for causing her unnecessary pain, for putting her through what I had promised so casually would never happen again. I had a moment of thinking "what had we done?". Did we really think her soul could survive the constant separation? Was a military lifestyle okay for a child who had suffered the trauma of abandonment not once but twice?

That first week, when we held each other and wept, I silently pulled out the daddy doll I had been saving for a moment when I knew she would need to see his face. I put the puffy pillow-like doll with Daddy's smiling face in between us and wrapped her arms around it.  Reminding her that Daddy still loved her. That even though he was miles away he was still in her heart. That he was coming back.  That we would be with her always.  That the distance did not mean he was gone for good, just gone for now.  I'll never forget the look of surprise on her face when she saw her new doll.  How wide her eyes got at the small version of him in front of her.  She very quietly said, "Oh daddy. I've missed you so much" as she lovingly stroked his face and cried.

Later that night I cried for her, for us.  It was so hard but seeing her sadness gave me hope that some of the anger she had been holding on to was melting away.  That her tears could be wiped away and replaced with a smile.  Over the next seven months she went through an adjustment process, working out her feelings in many ways. Sleep issues resurfaced with a vengeance, no place was close enough to me and it was exhausting.  But she did it! She smiled and laughed and played.  She went to preschool and made friends and learned to manage her feelings as she continued to mature.  She realized that our family was still a family no matter where we were in the world.  She laughed at daddy on the computer when we had an opportunity to Skype and loved babbling about everything on the phone when he called.

When H returned from deployment last August it was such a sweet homecoming for the kids. Prim jumped into his arms with abandon and shouted over and over again "I missed you Daddy!".  She was surprisingly content and the adjustment for her was minimal in the following weeks. I was so proud of her, so thankful for her peaceful heart.

We moved twice in nine weeks after H's return.  Talk about confusing, especially for our little girl.  But we did it with a smile, made our moving a crazy adventure and drove across country to Virginia where we knew another deployment awaited us.  Somewhere in the next few months my daughter became confident, assured in her position in the family.  She went into a new preschool (again) making friends easily and being an enthusiastic student.  She asked often if we were moving again and we would laugh and say "not for a while" at which she would laugh as well.

And then, Daddy deployed again this past April and the goodbyes and I'll be coming backs started all over again. It was incredibly sad but the past seven months had made a big difference in her development and the previous deployment was still fresh in their minds. We settled into a routine, talking often about missing daddy but concentrating on school work, activities, family and friends.  This time she talks about what we'll do when Daddy comes home and I smile because she sees herself in the future with us all together.  She understands that we are together forever.

I had some moments of fear that being a military family would be too difficult for her.   That it wasn't fair to constantly change and uproot and be apart.  But what I have learned is that we have the unique opportunity to focus on what permanence means. That God is still God no matter what.  That our family can live anywhere and still be OUR family.  That Daddy going away is temporary and love can defy distance and time.  That we are serving our country when we support Daddy.  That we can be bigger and better than our circumstances.

I have had the pleasure of knowing many military families who have adopted and I think they make such amazing parents.  Living a military life forces you to be open to the unknown, you are surrounded by a wonderful mixture of nationalities, cultures and lifestyles.  We are grounded by a common bond of sacrifice, honor and service that extends to our churches, communities and schools.

I am proud to say that we are a military family who has chosen to expand our family through adoption.  What is difficult and challenging is also extremely rewarding. We live a life that depends on the 100% assurance of God and faith in His plan and Prim was a part of that plan. He knew our life and what it would mean for her and I am confident that He does not make mistakes.


Brazenlilly said...

I can see God's hand working through all of that! When will H be home this time?

April said...

Hopefully sometime next month.... :)

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