He Just Left: My Son’s Struggle Through Week 1

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I don’t mean to belabor the point that it is hard to have a military spouse/father deploy. I think even those who are not in the military can appreciate that. However, I really want to share what my son is going through in the hopes that my blog will be helpful to someone else.

My sweet boy is a newly-minted 13 year old. He was dreading his father leaving about as thoroughly as I was. He has a big, BIG heart…and not a lot of ability to (if any at all) to compartmentalize his feelings. We NEVER say things in our house like “man up” (I detest that phrase) and I suppose we’ve been careful about gender stereotypes because we want our children to grow up happy and confident. Yet, I found myself this week wondering if I should have been harder with my son over the years.

This past week, he had a migraine on Monday. I don’t think he was faking–the weather was bad and barometric changes are a huge trigger for him right now. However, Tuesday-Thursday were an absolute struggle. Fortunately, hubby can currently text us for free using Viber. So I bribed the Boy with Papa’s texts. I also said, “If you get through school this week and complete your days, I’ll take you out to eat.” I felt conflicted about his for a few reasons: I don’t like to bribe the kids with food, but there is not much to do here in Podunk, GA, so food it is; I don’t like bribing my son to fall in line when his sisters have been a dream; I literally can’t afford to take home out every week just because he went to school.

Still, a Mama’s gotta keep her word. The Boy went to school the rest of the week so we went to his favorite Mexican restaurant. But back to the school week… Thursday, he was a nightmare. He sat by the toilet with his head half in it complaining of a stomach ache. I all but carried him the car, which is not easy to do because he’s nearly 100 lbs. When we got to the school, I had barely pulled into the parking lot when he opened the door and proceeded to walk into his school without me: no good-bye hug or well-wishing on THAT day. I was feeling pretty tender by that point and broke down in the school’s front office. The kind lady behind the desk offered to put the Boy in touch with their counselor who specializes in military counseling for children. I thank God for her.

By the afternoon, she had called me to tell me that she spoke with the Boy and that he is exhibiting signs of depression. If I’m going to pump him full of migraine pills, I can’t do the same with depression meds. Although I know it’s necessary for some kids, I feel very uncomfortable at the idea of putting the Boy on antidepressants. I told the counselor as much and she seemed to understand. She said she taught him some meditative breathing and about writing in a Gratitude Journal. These are things I am trying to do consistently as well, so it was right up my alley. She said that teen depression is healed by either work or play. Since my son is not a huge fan of working, I’m going to take him to Hobby Lobby to see if there’s a hobby he might get interested in.

On Friday, the Boy woke up easily and practically danced out the door. I wish every day could be like that. He had a field trip that day and knew I was picking him up early from school to see our chiropractor. Next week will show us what it’s going to be like. The military counselor told me I was doing the right thing…that forcing him to push through the depression and head to school would be much better for him than keeping him at home and allowing him to wallow in his grief. I understand this because I suffer from depression as well.

There is a saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” and I certainly am feeling this. I am grateful to his school and my friends for reaching out. I certainly do NOT feel alone, like I did during hubby’s last deployment and I am extremely appreciative of that.

Until next time…

Writer: CJ Heath

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