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?