It’s hard to believe, but it’s been four months now since I first stepped off that plane from Iraq. So much has changed and yet, so much still remains.
January and February will go down as the worst months. Lots of crying and screaming and yelling as the kids tried to figure out where they fit and what they could get away with. Lots of tears on my part as guilt ate away at my soul, part for leaving and the other part for coming home and uprooting them once more. There was the panic over my oldest going from loving school to hating it. The daily battles to get her up in the morning and the ever-present food battles where my oldest proved just how stubborn she truly was.
But February ushered in March, where things got a little better. There were still bad days. Really bad ones but the distance between them grew a little longer. But we as we moved forward, each night I fell asleep hoping that tomorrow would be better, that the stress and guilt eating away at me would ease back and we could enjoy being a family for a little while, however long that might be.
I’ve focused on my oldest because, at 5, she is more like a little person. She is more articulate and significantly more vocal than my youngest on so many issues. But lately, my youngest is starting to show signs of stress. She’s always cried when we drop her off at daycare in the morning, but now, she cries as soon as she wakes up.
She’s crying for Grammy, something she has not done in the last four months. I admit to being stunned the day she stood in a crowded rest stop in New Jersey and told me she didn’t think I loved her. I didn’t know what to say or do. I was prepared for “I don’t love you” — not “You don’t love me.”
But now when she gets upset with us, she says she wants to go back to Grammy’s because ‘hers always nice to me’ and ‘her loves me’. I think my 3-year-old is confused. She doesn’t know where she fits. I worry more about her adjustment than my oldest’s, simply because she is so little and she was so young (just over six months old) when I first left her.
Her difficulty is also painful because she’s always just gone with the flow. She’s never been a fussy kid, always kind of rolling with whatever. The fact that months into our transition home and she’s suddenly having issues is extra tough to deal with because she’s been so resilient up to this point.
My little girl has been through a lot. She’s three -and-a-half and she’s been without me for half her life. The guilt I keep thinking I’ve dealt with is like an insurgent, sneaking up when I’m least prepared to deal with it, like the middle of a rest stop. I hope she’ll be okay in the long run, but the simple lack of information about long-term impacts means that my husband and I are simply going in blind and doing the best we can.
For now, I try to get my mom on the phone as much as I can so my kids can hear her voice. My youngest seems to need this contact more than my oldest. I’m trying to be as understanding and accommodating as I can, but really, how many times can you overlook a roll of toilet paper thrown in the toilet before someone needs to instill some discipline.
I think she’s doing fine, over all. But it’s those moments when she says how much she misses her Grammy that I feel my own heart breaking. She has no other words to express her confusion about where she fits in the world.
And I have no way to really pierce through the bubble of my own guilt.
Empowering Parents is happy to welcome Jessica Scott to the EP Blog. Jessica is an active-duty army officer, one half of a dual military couple and a full-time mom. She squeezes out time to write late at night or on her lunch breaks, such as they are. She blogged her way through Iraq in 2009 and you can read about her journey here. She is the mother of Mia (3) and Victoria (5) and is blessed to have good children who’ve struggled through a rough time as military kids.