Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mr. Taliban

When my husband left for his last tour of duty to Afghanistan in 2009 my daughter wasn’t even fourteen months old and I was fifteen weeks pregnant with my son. Preparing her for his deployment wasn't a huge ordeal. I made sure to have pictures of my husband placed all around the house including on the walls, the fridge and in a frame on her dresser that she could kiss every night before bed. This time around it was much different. My husband and daughter have a very special bond – she is somewhat of a “Daddy’s Girl." I was extremely anxious about how to prepare her for his departure and extended absence.

The military sent us a package with a number of resources on preparing for deployment including strategies on helping children with deployment and coping with stress, discussions about single parenting, time management, spousal stress management and emergency child care services. It also included an Elmo video. Up to now, Elmo has been a big part of my daughter’s life. Elmo has been a special resource for potty training, transitioning from a crib to a big girl bed and providing education about healthy food. In a nutshell, the provided Elmo video titled “Talk, Listen, Connect” is about Elmo’s Daddy having to go away for a while and focuses on Elmo being brave. It is very cute and I can’t deny my daughter wanted to watch it over and over. However, one day shortly after my husband departed when she was acting up and asking for Daddy, I tried talking with her about being brave like Elmo. She was not impressed with me at all and replied “I don’t want to be brave like Elmo!” “I am angry!”  I validated these feelings; however the Elmo video has yet to be watched again! 

 My daughter (11 months at the time) with Elmo 

One piece of information that is missing in the deployment package is explaining “why” Daddy needs to leave. It does, however, discuss being truthful with your child – but honestly how truthful can you be with a 3 year old without scaring them! This is where “Mr. Taliban” entered our lives. My husband, upon being asked “why” he needed to go away for work, explained to our daughter that there was a man that wasn’t letting other children, Mommy’s and Daddy’s have food and homes and he needed to go help them. That wasn’t enough for my daughter who wanted to know his name - my husband replied “Mr. Taliban.” At first the fact that she would even utter the word "taliban" stressed me out. It just doesn’t seem right for a sweet, innocent child to utter such an ugly word. However, honesty, in a much simpler form of course, paid off and she is more than happy and quite proud to tell random people, neighbours, store clerks, family and friends that her daddy is away helping people who don’t have homes and food. She has even added to the story by saying “Mr. Taliban is very selfish and isn’t a good sharer.”

We are more than one third of the way into this tour. I know we have many more challenges and obstacles that lay ahead but we are just taking it one day at a time.