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Pardon my whine …

Submitted by on Monday, 21 June 2010 2 Comments

It never occurred to me that my Father’s Day post was whiny, let alone grating, until a commenter labeled it as such after a friend posted a link to it on Facebook.

In fact, I was trying very hard to do just the opposite in the post, to say, “this is our life, parts of it are not ideal at the moment, but we’re dealing with it.” That’s pretty much my game plan for deployment in general: Admit that it stinks at times but look for brighter moments and know that it won’t last forever.

Apparently, I’m doing it all wrong.

“I always find that ‘waaaa he’s not here on special days’ whining grating. The first rule in military life is that dates on the calendar are just dates on the calendar and that holidays are the days you are *together* whatever day that might be,” the commenter said. “If she can’t handle it, maybe she’s not cut out for military life.”

Hmm … I must have overlooked that rule. I remember rules about not taking a lot of cash down range, rules about not shipping pork, alcohol or porn to Muslim countries, and rules about powers of attorney but I don’t recall anything about calendars.  I’ve seen suggestions – and those suggestions work well over a six-month separation. Last year we had Dad’s birthday late and Big Guy’s early. But that notion tends to quit working over time. This go-round, we’ve focused on ways to celebrate from afar. We’ve baked Dad brownies and sent him a birthday in a box, and we’ve taken video of karate belt ceremonies. It’s made things better on both ends.

I am familiar with a similar calendar “rule,” though, because I  lived it during decades in the newspaper business. Those years brought many missed holidays and weddings and birthdays, sometimes because the boss’s idea of equity was to let no one take time off and others because my number was up and it was my turn to tough it up.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that the “rule” is a bald-faced lie. You can tell yourself that it’s just a date on the calendar, but when your Christmas Day dinner is Cheetos, you rapidly reach the limits of self-delusion. If adults get bummed, it’s not surprising that kids notice when a parent’s not around for birthdays, ballgames and school concerts. A boy who’s almost 7 can read well enough to decipher the Father’s Day cards in stores, and I’m betting that they’ll notice this winter that Christmas is coming. I couldn’t hide holidays even if I wanted to.

And if the guys are bummed, I’m not about to tell them to deny it. I don’t let them dwell on it, but I do acknowledge it. “Yes, I know you miss Daddy. We all do. But just think of all the fun we had last summer and all the fun we’re planning on having again.”

But back to those rules. I don’t know when – or if – the commenter was in the military, but according to lists I’ve seen I’m not so wrong after all. Here’s the No. 2  suggestion, straight from military.com:

“Share Feelings: Children often lack the vocabulary to share their feelings. It will help if parents talk about their own feelings, which will help children communicate their feelings. Let your child know that even negative thoughts and feelings are OK and normal.

I think that roughly translates to “one person’s grating whine is another’s way to deal with reality.”

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • RainHa Lola said:

    I LOVE YOU AND THOSE BOYS! You are GREAT! Don’t take things other’s (idiots) say to heart….take your baby’s love to heart! :) <3 <3

  • Debra said:

    I don’t take it to heart, and I understand that once upon a time the “calendar rule” did reign in the military. I suspect that was before deployments lasted a year or more. And maybe it still works for branches where deployments aren’t as long as the Army’s are today. But it doesn’t work for us in this particular situation. I just don’t see myself saying “tough it up, soldier” to a 4- and 6-year-old who are missing a parent.