April-the Month of the Military Child: An Open Letter to my Bonus Daughters
Next month, I turn thirty-nine (how did that happen?!) and no matter how fast the years fly, one part of me never changes; I am and will forever be a military child. My father was gone a lot, but when he came home it was to “our” house. This is not the case for my husband’s daughters. For six years they have been without a full-time dad. They have been at the mercy of a leave chit entirely based upon the discretion of the Navy’s whims and decisions to allow him to travel the 1,500 miles to see his children. Finally, the tides are about to turn. We soon get to call the shots. We are ninety days from arriving in Arkansas. We are ninety days from my husband finally returning to his daughters with the ability to be there for them every day. We are ninety days from me finally getting to form a more permanent bond. I have a lot of emotions, excitement and a few fears. So today, this 8th day of the Month of the Military Child I write a letter to the girls to let them know that though they don’t realize it there are many – including me – who thank them for the sacrifices they have made while their father served his country. They’re the ones who serve silently, receive little or no credit, get no opinion and give up the most…
Three years ago none of us had any idea the other existed. And then one uncharacteristically muggy San Diego day, your dad and I met. Within minutes he told me he had “these beautiful daughters”. When he talks about you, he always says, “…my beautiful daughters.” It’s all encompassing; as I was soon to learn you are beautiful inside and out. The truth is I was afraid. I was really afraid. He kept telling me I had nothing to worry about and then I met you. I was beyond nervous, but he was right. We laughed. A LOT. We played YouTube videos and for days we asked people if they had any grapes. One of the best parts was the many renditions of “Happy Birthday” sung to your dad each time we went to a restaurant, though his birthday is in July. We got him every time! It was April and it was cold in Arkansas. You were nice about what a weather wimp I am. We packed a lot in and though it was just a few days I fell in Love with you. When it was time for us to say ‘until next time’ I could hardly keep it together. K, you were only seven years old. You cried and I turned around so you wouldn’t see me fall apart. We drove away and I sobbed with your older sister in the back seat. I tried hard not to, but I failed in my attempt to keep it together. Your dad said, “This is the worst thing in the world to be used to,” and I have never forgotten those words. I think the truth is none of us were ever used to it. That was just the way it had to be, so we had to accept it. And we did as best we could.
You are military children. You didn’t get a choice. You just had to accept the way things were. You had to accept your dad left for the Navy and all of the fears and uncertainties that came along with it. You had to accept you didn’t get to have a say. I know you have not felt like you were first. Your dad is not a man of many words, but just know that in his heart you have always been number one.
I know everything may not fall into place easily. There will be adjustments for all of us. I am definitely still learning (I see you laughing, saying, “Obviously!”) and I have some great teachers in all of you. I look forward to all of the adventures to come and even to the challenges so we can face them together. Together. Finally.
Girls, one last thing. In your toughest moments, even when it’s hard, be proud of your dad. He has been through a lot. He’d never ask you or anyone for praise, but he deserves it. Someday you will learn, in his own humble way, how bad ass your dad really is. Even more so, be proud of yourselves and your strength. As military children you were assigned a duty, too – and you didn’t even know it. Never forget you are Loved. Never forget that although the country may give you just a month, every single day you deserve more than what you got. You have done beautifully and my gratitude and admiration for all you have been through knows no bounds.
See you, soon. Counting down the days…
With so much Love,
Your bonus/step mom