When you get home from deployment, the army sends you through all this reintegration training. Some of it is worthwhile, a lot of it is a waste of time and even more is a check the block exercise. I understand the intent behind it, but frankly, I didn’t need or want most of it. There was, however, one class that I really got a lot out of and it was taught by the chaplains. They discussed reintegrating with your families and I paid attention because honestly, I’ve been worried about reuniting with my kids.

They talked about expectations and reactions and how you and they are different now than when you left home. I knew all this but still I paid attention. There was a lot of anticipation within me about seeing the kids and getting my family back together.

I thought I was prepared.

So when we’re in the middle of a busy rest stop in New Jersey last night and my youngest starts crying out of the blue, I wasn’t prepared to hear why she was upset. She had real, painful tears, the kind of crying that sounded like her little heart hurt. When I asked her what was wrong, she sobbed “I don’t think you love me.”

It was not a fake cry. It wasn’t a cry for attention. And I had no idea how to react. Instantly, I started crying. In the middle of a rest stop, with people wondering what the heck was going on, I was trying to get my oldest’s coat on her while trying to get my youngest to understand that I did love her and I did miss her.

My husband freaked out when he walked up and saw me and our youngest both in tears. My oldest rested her head on my shoulder and told me she knew I loved her. But none of that helped until I could make my youngest understand.

It was a brutal episode and one I did not expect. They tell you about the babies not knowing you or your grade school kids wanting to talk incessantly but nothing prepared me for my 3 year old’s confusion and true heartache.

It’s better today. She’s back to normal and so am I but the pain from last night lingers. So today, I’m hugging both of them more and telling them I love them. I’d already been doing that but apparently, it wasn’t enough to make up for a year of no hugs and no up close I love yous. The web cam was good but it wasn’t enough.

I don’t know if I can ever make up  for being gone to either of them. I don’t know what else is coming.

And I don’t know that I’m prepared to deal with it.