Tales from a Military Mom and Grandma

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Well, the word is official, Camp Mamaw (Grandma) will be open right after Christmas when I will be taking care of my granddaughters for a few days while their Mom gets some much-needed R&R. I remember when I was younger with 3 little boys at home, I loved having a few days without my husband and kids around too. However, they were few and far between as there was usually one baby at home when the others came of age to go hunting with Dad. Maybe that's why my Mom would take one or two when they got a little older for a shopping trip or a Mcdonald's run. Maybe my hair wouldn’t have been so whacked out looking at times and I wouldn’t have hidden in my office when everyone was asleep if I had gotten a spa weekend or something similar when the boys were small!

This is one of the things that you can do for your daughter/son-in-law while their spouse is deployed. Take their child/children for at least a full 24 hours and have some fun. When my granddaughters come over and spend the night sometimes we have themed nights. It’s easier for me to plan when I have a theme, that habit was formed when my sons were little and we had to have Power Ranger Birthdays, or Cowboy Birthdays, etc. When the girls come over, we might have a movie night. I’ll make plenty of popcorn and we pretend that the couch is the car and we’re at the drive-in (they don’t really know what one of those are since they’re not too common anymore), but we cuddle on the couch, I ”drive” us to the theater and we watch the movie together. We have a baker's day to make cookies, the icing is easy to make too for them to use, just powdered sugar and a little water. We’ve also had “beauty salon night” painting nails and using the footbaths. They love to use the scented lotions, it makes them feel so grown up. The most fun was taking out the teacups for apple juice, crystal bowls for fruit and yogurt, and the special girly flower plates for breakfast. I was their waitress and they were the princesses. They ate everything they “hate” to eat at home and they talked about it for days!

We’ve made blanket fortresses in the bedroom just like I did when I was little and then taught my boys how to do as well. We use all the blankets from the hall closet and drape them from the bunkbed down to a chair, hold it in place with books and then get the flashlights and read or tell ghost stories. The boys loved this, they would even take the dog (our black lab) in there and sleep all night, cuddled with her.

My point is that as a parent of a deployed soldier, I know it’s hard to have your child out facing danger on a daily basis. To have your spouse away from home any length of time is hard enough if they are gone on a business trip, but knowing that you won’t have them at home for months at a time, and having to deal with the bills, kids, work and everyday life decisions can be taxing enough, but knowing in the back of your mind that he/she is thousands of miles away, sleeping with a gun by their side instead of you must be terrifying. I had actually thought about this before and have offered to watch the girls when I can, but it was brought home to me about a week ago when I took my daughter-in-law and my granddaughters to see an area in our hometown where there is a neighborhood that decorates for Christmas. Each home has painted, wooden cutouts of different storybook/movie figures, and each house is strung with lights. I used to take my sons every year to this neighborhood when they were little and they would be in awe of the beauty and shout out each character's name, just like my granddaughters did that evening.

Since it was dark, the truck was cloaked in that magical time when you can tell a secret, feeling that without the harshness of daylight showing every worry line that your face is wearing, that it’s fine to share. That’s when my daughter-in-law told me how she cries at night, missing my son. She sleeps with their girls in one big bed to keep them close every night. She told me about a song on the local country music station that makes her cry every time she hears it. Now, I’m not ignorant of the fact that she misses him, I know they both miss each other immensely. I just never heard her speak it out loud, in this way, to anyone. She told me about the arguments they have sometimes when he calls, about the little things, and how sometimes she feels like she does nothing right. All of it came to the surface, and when I looked over at her I saw a little girl in a woman's body crying out for some reassurance that he would be okay and that what she was doing was right.

We talked all the way home about being a parent, how hard it is to know if what you are doing is the right thing. We talked about love, marriage, and hope for the future. I reminded her that he was stressed too, that he worries about his family, if the girls are okay and that he misses her more than he may actually say in the words she might want to hear. He had called me when he first deployed and asked me to check in on her, which I have done since he has been gone, to keep his mind at ease. Heck, I used to visit them all the time when they lived downstairs from me so of course, I was going to call or text her when she moved in with her parents! We had a really good time that evening, sharing our thoughts, feelings, and yes, our fears. We spoke woman-to-woman about the man that we share a love for, my son-her husband. I used to put bandaids on his little cuts and kiss his bruises, I held his little hand through the years and wiped away his tears of childhood disappointments. She holds his hand and his heart now in a way that no one else can. They argue and makeup, they call me to tell me and I offer support, never taking sides but letting them know I am listening. They’re young and have the trials and tribulations that every married couple has, with a twist, like so many other military families. Neither one of them may be aware of it, but I knew that when I handed him over that he was in good hands.

So Camp Mamaw will be up and running again in a few days and I’m making sure that we have plenty of air-drying clay, crayons, color books, and fingerpaints. Their dad is finally coming home after being gone for a year and we need to get busy making the welcome home signs and showing him that we all have missed him more than he will ever know.

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