Sunday, March 09, 2008

At Risk?

I was reading an article in a magazine the other day and it's really starting to get on my nerves. I'm here to ask if you've experienced this or if I'm out of line.

I got this totally awesome package from my big sister, Laurie. I almost cried when I saw the big bag of peanut m&m's and the little gifts for each of my kids. And I really did cry when I read the article in the Brain, Child magazine she had marked for me (great article, must blog about that another time.)

Later that night, though, I was reading the magazine in my bed when I saw something that kinda irritated me:

Kids who live with their grandparents often have left homes plagued by drugs, violence, illness, or extended military deployment. (in the "News and Other Gleanings From the World at Large" section. Brain, Child winter 2008)


Okay, not "kinda". I'm totally irritated.

I know kids of deployed parents do live with their grandparents when both parents deploy at the same time. Writing this blog post reminded me of my friend Ursala, whose baby who went to live with grandma and grandpa for 3 months while Ursala and her husband's deployments overlapped. Also, our neighbors who are both Active-duty Army would prefer to both deploy at the same time while the kids stay with Nanai or else one of them will always be deployed and they will never see each other.

So, I know both parents do deploy, now more than ever before. And I know that in dual military families the parents have to have some kind of guardianship set up with grandparents or other guardians (I remember a story in the newspaper when we lived in Texas in 2003 of a single Airman taking on the care of 2 children while their parents both deployed, I wish I could find a link to that story, it was pretty cool and I think it had won some kind of Air Force news award. anywho...)

It makes me sad and a little angry to see children of deployed parents grouped in with violent druggies. Like kids of illegal drug users and Army Brats are the only ones who live with grandma. Not kids of single mothers, or kids of divorced parents, or kids of teen parents.

Which reminds me of a magnet I have stuck to my refrigerator, titled: 10 Ways To Tell Your Child I Love You. I received the magnet as part of a helpful pre-deployment packet. I finally got around to reading it one day and noticed some rather odd ways to tell your children that you love them, such as "Make sure your children eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and get enough sleep" and "Protect your children. Make their safety your top priority." Not bad or anything, just strange in a child-protective-services kind of way. Turns out it is printed by the Bureau For At-Risk Youth. Hmm.

I guess I just hadn't thought of my children as "At-Risk" in the same way as a foster kid rescued from a raging abusive druggie step dad. Programs for At-Risk kids are like Midnight Basketball leagues to keep kids off the streets. Or afterschool chess clubs for inner-city schools or something. Not MY kids...

Do you consider your child to be "At-Risk" when your husband is deployed?

I'm not saying we couldn't use some help. (some days more than others) I'm just not sure I can blame it all on deployment...

On the one hand I do want Mr. Secretary of Defense to realize the huge affect a deployment has on our children. On the other hand, I try to keep our home life as normal as possible. And I think we're doing great. I don't want my children given a stereotypical negative label that won't help my children, and won't bring their dad home any sooner.

I watch with (trepidation? worry? wonder? horror? interest? fascination?) awe at the way my children are adjusting and living and celebrating life while their dad is in Iraq. And I wonder how these deployments will affect them - next week, next month, and for the rest of their lives.

What do you think? Does this dude look At-Risk to you?

11 comments:

Battleship Bettie - Proud Navy Wife said...

I have witnessed some horrible HORRIBLE neglect of military children when the father deploys. And I'm not meaning when he's been gone 5 or 6 months, I mean the day after he leaves. Our culdesac in Housing in Norfolk had multiple homes being investigated by CPS. Everything you can think of... leaving infants with a 5 year old to baby site, locking 5 and 6 year olds out of the house while the mother took off to Applebee's with her friend, filthy homes, one woman's kid ended up with a cigarette burn on it's butt (she claims it flew down the diaper while she was driving... imagine the "magic bullet" action that had to happen on that one!), to one home where the middle child (about 3 was so malnurished people thought it was it's younger sibling the baby. Some of this was even right with the fathers home, some the fathers were gone. This was ONE BLOCK in ONE Navy Housing complex. WHile of course not everyone treats their kids like this... it is obviously a problem that no one is wanting to talk about.

wendy said...

I think a lot of people want to talk about it but don't know how. I know our school struggles with problems related to frequent military moves and deployments.

But wowza! that neighborhood sounds fascinating. I've seen some odd things, but nothing to that extent. Scary! Maybe I'm living in my own little happy bubble, I'm going to have to do some investigating...

ABW said...

That's insane. I'm going to have to think on that one before I say anything, lol.

Tori :) said...

I dont think it's right to group them all in the same thing either. I think this post was very eye-opening.
Love the pic!!

(army)Wife said...

Children who are "at risk" aren't just from military families. I used to work for an attorney who worked for the county. She had hundreds of kids as "clients" who were in protective custody because they had been neglected, abused, misused, etc. In the year I worked for her I did not come across one who was from a military family. I'm not saying this kind of stuff doesn't happen in the military because I have no doubt that it does. Is simply that the military side is a part of a much bigger problem.

Ann M. said...

I don't think it's right to group all military children living with their grandparents and other at-risk children. I believe that parents who are deploying are not CHOOSING to behave in risky behavior that makes them unfit parents and need/force/allow someone else to care for their children. Deploying parents usually would rather raise their own kids but can't. Leaving them with grandparents or other family is just the best option they have.

No Cool Story said...

ITA with Tori and ann m.
They should have made a distinction in the article.
>:(

trying said...

Very interesting post. I think a lot of it comes down to how the family (the parent(s) deployed, the caretakers, the parent left behind) handles it. I can see where it would be easy for the extra stress to take a toll on the parent left behind, but like you said, you try to keep homelife as normal as possible. I'm with you about grouping military folks in with violent druggies. Not that the military doesnt have its black sheep but thats a pretty wide net to cast.

Now that mine are a little more aware, the elder will occasionally say something or ask a question that makes me wonder what must be going thru his mind sometimes. How do you really explain to a 3 year old why daddy is here one day and gone the next over and over and over again. But alas, its like everything in parenting, one foot in front of the other, you try to make it thru as best you can.

Mary Peterson said...

Your post really made me think too. This deployment that we are currently going through is our fourth in 5 years. My children have had different reactions to each deployment. I found in looking back that when I have had a positive attitude towards the deployment and when I have felt confident that we were going to make it through okay that my kids have acted better. I am happy to say that both of my boys are thriving and doing well during this deployment. When I have felt discouraged or angry about the deployments in the past, my kids have acted out. I would never classify my kids as at risk. I feel that my family has grown closer from our experiences in the military. Maybe we are just lucky.

wendy said...

Mary - you make a really good point - it is so true that my attitude really affects my kids. Maybe it's the mom's that should be labeled At Risk...

Mrs. Staff Sergeant said...

This is absurd. And now I'm irritated too. You know, my own father-in-law told me it was irresponsible for us to have children while J was in the military for just this reason. That they would be resentful of us and never have the ability to form close lasting relationships. Poppycock. It's ridiculous. Maybe I'll just have to write a little letter to that magazine. (lol)