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Boots struggles with missing Dad

Submitted by on Wednesday, 13 January 2010 2 Comments

boots_dad_posterBoots bounced down the stairs, climbed on the bar stool and was waiting at the counter for breakfast before I’d even turned on the kitchen light this morning.

“Mommy, I can’t wait to go to school today. It’s a nice school! I get to see all my friends.”

I mentally sighed with relief, because it hadn’t been that way for the previous week. School was stoopit. His teachers were stoopit. I was a mean, ugly mommy for making him go to that awful, awful place.

And the top-of-the-morning tantrums weren’t the only tumult swirling around him. Everything he was asked to do, no matter how benign, was met with a blast of protest.

Can you put on your  shoes?


Please pick up the crayons.


It’s time to brush your teeth.


It wasn’t the defiance that surprised me – that seems to be par for the course among his peers at the moment – but the obvious cause of its uptick. Dad’s deployment. I wouldn’t have been shocked at all if I’d thought a little more about Boots’ history.

He’s a happy-go-lucky sort of kid until one of his people disappears. The last time that happened was when Big Guy started kindergarten, leaving Boots by himself during the mornings at preschool. Boots would cry. He’d wail. He’d cling to me knees and beg me not to leave him.

All of that was nothing compared to his agony last week. The day Dad left, Boots crawled into a corner. The second day, his teacher helped him make a Daddy poster that he could visit at any time. That seemed to make things better temporarily, but by Friday he was throwing fits so ferocious that I turned the car around in the parking lot and took him home.

I was at a loss as to what to do. We’d made Daddy posters at home and bought new teddy bears – the big, expensive kind that guys had begged for every time they saw them at the uniform store on post. It helped Big Guy, who falls asleep cuddling his bear in Class A’s every night and occasionally calls it “Daddy.”

None of it was much comfort to Boots, though, who knows all the words to describe happy, sad, glad and mad but had no idea of how to deal with the chaos swirling in his world. One day, Daddy was coming home for lunch and they were cooking eggs together. The next, we were leaving in the dead of night except Daddy wasn’t coming back with us.

I reassured Boots that he still would be safe and loved, but he just wasn’t hearing it. I fixed meals that they loved in order to keep the emotional temperature down on that count. I reminded him that he liked going to school and seeing his friends and that his teachers are actually quite smart. He just never believed that in the mornings.

Though it would be easy to kick myself around over his week of agony, there was little else I could have done to make it better. Not, at least, without letting him get away with bloody murder, and that would have backfired in the long run.

So we waited. We waited through wailing, clinging and demanding. We waited until he’d figured out that Mom wasn’t going to disappear in the dead of night. We waited until until he’d talked enough on the phone with Dad to figure out that he hadn’t really disappeared either – he just wasn’t here at the moment.

Finally, after a week, the sun broke through again.

“Mommy, I still miss Daddy,” he said as he ate his pancake this morning.

“I know, babes. We all do.”

“But I love my school.”

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Leslie K said:

    Hang in there, Boots. I have a scotty dog named Duffy that has had trouble sleeping through the night for the past week…it’s bad enough when I leave for work but now he has no Nephew to hang with and his furry little heart is broken!

  • Debra said:

    Poor Duffy! And he can’t even talk on the phone or write letters.