My daughter turns 5 today. I wasn’t going to write about it because I’m taking it harder than I thought I was going to. You see, in order to be in Iraq and essentially give up on being a parent for a year, I’ve had to compartmentalize. I take all of my mommy stuff, my emotions, my thinking about my kids, anything at all that reminds me how bad it sucks to be in Iraq and miss everything like my kid’s first day at school, birthdays and every other milestone (though I’ve got to say, I’m glad my mom is dealing with my youngest’s potty training issues, thanks mom!) and put it all in a mommy box. I turn off the feelings and put them away. I don’t think about it. I stay busy. I try not to talk about my family with anyone other than my husband because at the end of the day, I just don’t want to talk about it.
But my mommy box has cracked open several times this year with mixed results. My fun little panic attack episode back when the swine flu first broke and I had just read The Shack was one example (seriously, reading about a guy who’s kid is murdered? Not good reading material for a mom who’s separated from her kids by oceans and deserts but that’s another post). Another was my daughter’s first day of school. I bawled like a baby and was pretty down the next day, too. All until I was able to move my mind to something else and put the lid back on my mommy box.
For those of you who’ve never left your families behind, you might be wondering how I can do it. It’s not a matter of how, it’s a matter of necessity. I have to stay busy or the sadness will eat away at me. When I talk to the kids, I try to make them laugh (I’m not very good at it but I try).
My oldest told me the other day on the phone that she wanted to be an author like me. I asked her if she wanted to write stories with me when I get home. We started talking about her story where a kitteh and a unicorn (I just typed uniform instead, think my fingers have muscle memory, much?) were playing tag. When I said the winner didn’t have to take a nap, she thought it was the funniest thing in the whole world. It felt good to have something to share, even with the distance and the space between us.
My mom sent me a bunch of her art work from school. On one of them was a note from her teacher. It said “I like how you put your name on your piece- that’s what writers do”. So not only does my kiddo want to be a writer (and I have to say, the secret part of me is thrilled that my kid looks up to me) but she’s got the courage to tell people she’s going to be a writer.
I hid my writing for the most part until I joined the Austin RWA. I still tend not to tell folks that I’m seeking publication. But my five year old has the courage to announce it to the world both that her mommy is a writer and that she wants to be like her mommy.
And that, folks, is worth any sacrifice.
Happy Birthday, baby. Mommy and Daddy will be home soon.