Children are much like little adults. They comprehend, and feel complex feelings and emotions just like us adults. As parents our first instinct is to protect our children from pretty much everything, down to a paper cut. However, this is unrealistic. I found this out pretty quickly having all boys, after my first E.R. visit. No matter how hard you try you cannot shelter them from the world, so what do you do?
Be honest. Yes, I know that is easier said than done, depending on the circumstances but I firmly believe that honesty is the best policy. Now, I realize that there are some topics that are sensitive to approach, such as death, adoption, divorce, etc. Fortunately I have not had to deal with any of these subjects, and I pray that I won’t have to, but I would hope that we could find a balance between honesty and sensitivity.
Deployments and separations have probably been the hardest to deal with for my family. This week my husband has come and left in the span of a few days. I didn’t quite realize how much my 2 year old missed him until he saw him after a 5 week separation. He ran full speed to him screaming “dada” and anytime my husband was out of his sight he was frantically asking for him. That’s when it hit me, like wow, this little guy has feelings too, and to some degree realizes that he misses his daddy.
So, what do I tell him now that his daddy has to leave again? I can only tell him and his brothers the truth. “Your daddy has to go away again, because he is working, but he loves you very much.” Will this ease the pain for a 2 year old? Probably not, but I would rather tell him the truth than try to make up some elaborate story, that he will one day find out isn’t true.
My older sons have a better understanding of course, and they have come to accept the life that we live, although I’m sure it still effects them too. When they see pictures of their daddy with a gun, or out in the dessert they ask the harder questions like, “Does he kill people?” or “Has he been shot?” I have to be honest with those questions too, I tell them that he is in a dangerous place, and he does what he has to do to keep us safe.
Its not easy being honest with your kids but I believe it is easier to tell the truth than keep up a lie (except for Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, etc…there are some exceptions people!). When my kids are driving me crazy, I tell them, “Hey, you all are driving me crazy!” When my children have pushed me to the limit of explosion, I tell them, “Hey guys, I’m about to explode so backup and nobody gets hurt.” I always want my boys to feel like we will be honest with them and hopefully it will facilitate the same in return.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned thus far, in this parenting thing, is that children are delicate, but extremely intelligent. So, whatever you do, do not underestimate them.