Blogger Biography: After almost 1½ years of separation, Megan’s family is together again. She and her National Guard husband “surprised” their daughter with his homecoming, and it was the most magical experience she has ever had!
My husband left for his deployment training last summer (June 2012) when our daughter was only 18 months old. We were worried she wouldn’t remember him, so we made sure to have pictures everywhere, plenty of books and lots of videos. We were very blessed that Kyle was able to call and video chat with us fairly often. I used all resources possible to help our family stay connected during this long separation. Military OneSource has multiple books and a Sesame Street short film about deployments and homecomings. Our daughter could still probably recite the entire film!
When we started getting ready for Kyle’s return, we read the “Home Again” book that was given to us by Military OneSource every night and talked about what it was going to be like when Daddy came home. At almost 3 years old, she would sometimes tell me she was excited or nervous to see Daddy again. Other times she would tell me she was mad that Daddy was coming home because she didn’t want to share her mommy or her home. We talked about how all of her feelings were OK and normal (if you couldn’t tell, she is a pretty bright little girl!).
The day Kyle came home, we were both anxious about our daughter’s reaction. She could have been overjoyed, shy or mad. We couldn’t predict how she would react. I had to pick Kyle up between 4 and 5 a.m. so our daughter stayed with friends the night before. We hired a photographer to take pictures that evening when they would see each other again for the first time in many months. Our daughter stayed with a friend all day so we could catch up and rest before our very excited toddler saw her Daddy! She knew the plan and what was happening because I didn’t think she was quite old enough to understand a surprise. I told her, “Daddy is coming home today. You are going to spend the day with your friend and then we are going to take pictures. While we are taking pictures, Daddy is going to come see you.” So she knew what was happening and was very anxious, but she didn’t quite know what to expect. Again, we were worried that she would be scared or upset, but we were hoping for a positive reunion.
After about 20 minutes of pictures, we told Kyle to come over to where our daughter could see him. The comic relief in this anxious experience was that at about the time we told Kyle to come over, a forever-long train came and he was on the other side!! Our daughter was reading her “Home Again” book and telling the photographer about Daddy coming home right about the time he came walking around the corner of the train station. At first she had an “I can’t believe it” face. When Kyle kept walking toward her, she just screamed over and over, “My Daddy! My Daddy!” as she ran and jumped into his arms. It was a better reaction that any of us could have anticipated. For about two weeks after he came home, she wouldn’t let him out of arm’s reach. Many nights he would have to stay in her room until she fell asleep because she was so worried he wouldn’t be there when she woke up!
As magical as the reunion was, after almost three months, the new has started to wear off for her, and she is back into her toddler tantrums full force! She is trying to find her new place in our family because she truly only remembers a life as a family of two. So there are good days and bad, but of course we wouldn’t change it. Through the separation, I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) want to imagine how difficult it would have been had we not been blessed with the friends, family and military community that banded together to help us, as well as the Military OneSource resources that helped our little girl wrap her mind around the experience that our whole family went through. Deployments are hard and homecomings are scary, but we were able to help our toddler through it because of the books, videos and people who were there to support us through the journey.