An installment in the New York Times Deployment Diary
If you’ve ever spent a day with a toddler, you know a great majority of your time is spent fielding questions. From the inquisitive (“Why is water wet?”), to the untimely and mortifying (“Is there a baby in her belly?”), to the disgusting (“Mommy mad I just ate worm?”), their questions are equal parts incessant, unfiltered and amazing.
Since my husband began the shorter departures (called work-ups) that precede his longer deployment, the questions from my two children have started to get harder to answer, both literally and in their emotional complexity. From “When will Daddy come home?” to “Mommy, will you please come back after work?”, their thoughtful contemplation often transports me to the brink of tears, and I find myself looking over my shoulder, as if expecting magical backup to appear where I know there is none.
For a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old, “He’s gone for 17 sleeps, and then back for four, but then leaves again for eight” is just too much for them to process. Our daughter whispers to her “Daddy’s Girl” locket that she wears while he is away; our son clutches his “Daddy Doll” in his sleep, as if the screen print of his father in his flight suit will somehow hug him back. Challenging times, challenging questions, many of which are my own. The one I seemingly grapple with most is, “What can I do to make this easier on them?”