“I can see them. As we read books together before bedtime, I see them. I see the side of her mouth trembling a little, just like her dad’s does, keeping it all in because in this world, STRONG is what we teach.
As we read, I go over the day in my mind:
- The 3 times she broke out into weeping, the prayer we prayed in carpool, the goodbye, the dropping her off at school, the text to her wonderful teacher asking to keep a tender eye on her…..
- The alarms I set on my phone to remind me to pray for her and myself, too…..
- The more than 5 times she broke out into tears over small things, so small I don’t even recall what they were…
- The arguing over her not doing her chores and the inevitable consequences…
- The letter she wrote me, apologizing and explaining that she feared she would never be able to be a good girl because she isn’t strong when her daddy is gone…
- The tugging of my heart and the sheer panic rising as I calmly try to determine the next step….
- The walking of the tension between punishment and grace…..
And then, in a blink of an eye, I’m back to reality and I see them. Fluid waters of grief held at bay, they are.
Unshed tears, they are.
All of a sudden, my heart is squeezed with pain over what I cannot undo, over what I cannot fix. I see the unshed tears; I wonder what is keeping them in and than it hits me. She doesn’t want to disappoint me. She wants to be a strong little girl even though her emotions are wild and confusing and overwhelming.
Where did she get that? Why does she think that? How did this happen?
Even in this sudden realization, I know that there is nothing I could have done or not done to prevent her from exercising her will. After all, she is her own being, and this is her world. Dad is gone, mom is running the show, and even though she loves mom, her world is rocked every single time he has to leave.
And so, she weeps and she cries, but the time comes, even for an almost 8 year old, where she chooses to leave her pain untended to so she can experience something – anything – else besides it.
As she reads to me, I wonder,
Why do we teach being STRONG with such fervor? If anything, maybe we should forget about being strong and just try to be TRUE. Maybe, we should pay attention and tend to the unshed tears around us…in our families, in our communities, in our sons and daughters….our sweet military children in their untended grief.
We should! I should!
You know, I don’t know a lot about how to be a “great” mother. Who really does? But, I do know this. I will notice her tears…shed and unshed. And I will welcome them. I will love her and I will be here, standing in the void, every time her dad leaves….wiping away all those shed and unshed tears. I will tend to her in her pain, and help her carry the burden of unspoken grief and separation from family. “
Guys…this is just a small little snapshot of my normal life.
However, it is not just my life. There are so many of us military families with struggles that are specific to our subculture. I can tell you through veteran eyes that it is difficult and that there is truly very little support. But the world has enough stories about people like me…..Not saying mine isn’t important. NO, not at all.
But, I challenge you to think about the child, the children, of military parents. As adults, we know how to function and we aim to protect our children. But there are realities we can’t always protect them from.
- Mom or dad may be going to war or already there….
- They may friends who have lost a parent in the line of duty…
- Mom or dad may go TDY a lot …
- Mom or dad may work insane hours because manning is low and the reality is that military members do not have the option to keep their family first…..AND
- The kid starts to learn about war in school and the revelation hits them that mommy and/or daddy is in the military too and they could die…..
This,my friends, it does more than affect our children. It helps form them, their dreams and their perspectives. Every story is different…but I am certain that the grief of missing mom or dad is the same….
This is the burden of the military child…
May all our children encounter the true, non-discriminating love of God, who promises to wipe every tear from our eyes, accepts us unconditionally, and knows what each tear drop carries- shed or unshed.