I keep wondering how long it will be before I steal my son’s innocence. It’s happened twice already now. The first time I stole my oldest daughters innocence she was three. See, I’m not talking about some perverted or sexual thing. When a parent leaves a child for any reason a little bit of their child like qualities disappear.
My oldest daughter was three when I joined the Navy. To be honest, I really didn’t think I would make it past boot camp but I did. She however had to grow up almost instantly. Some nights I lay awake and wonder what it felt like for her mom to leave her. Did she cry a lot? Did she miss me? I think for the most part, I know how she felt. No words could even begin to describe her pain. I know how I felt when I saw her for the first time after I left. She thought I was coming back home. She not knowing, asked me to read her a book that night “when we got home.” When I told her I wasn’t coming home, she burst into tears. Those sounds, 16 years later still ring true in my head today.
Sadly, I wish that I could say that I didn’t have to put any more of my children through that nightmare again but I had to do it again with my next child. Akayla was about the same age that Mayme was when I had to leave her for the first time. I received unaccompanied orders to Seoul, South Korea for an entire year. I could have taken her with me and did a two year tour over there but the trade off would have been that I wouldn’t get to see Mayme for two years. Plus, with these orders, it would cut down my sea time on a ship which would have caused me to be away from them both for longer than a year. In my heart, I thought I was doing the right thing. I just didn’t know the fall out that I would have by making this choice.
Akayla was uprooted from everything she knew. Her house, her family, and most of all me. Unlike Mayme, who had her dad and the only thing missing from her life at the time was me. Akayla had the care taker that I left her with. Akayla is so apprehensive to change. She doesn’t sleep well and her anxiety goes through the roof every time I even mention leaving and at 9 years old she gets so emotional almost daily. It doesn’t take much for her to break down and cry. I have been very lucky that her teachers and sitters know that she is a military child who sometimes has problems working through her emotions/problems. She recently went through a program for children of military families and slowly she’s able to put words to her emotions. She tells me often that she hates the Navy because it takes her family away from her.
Now my youngest child is possibly about to experience the same thing. He will be 3 in April and it seems like 3 is the magical number for when Mommy has to leave. My anxiety is through the roof this time because I’ve seen the carnage from me leaving the other two. I watch him sleep at night and I just hate how I feel knowing that at some point, his childhood is going to change forever soon.
Sometimes the guilt gets the best of me but I love being in the Navy. I have an honorable career serving my country. I know that the sacrifices that I make for my family are for a greater good and that I indirectly help people. I have four children and the Navy allows me to provide for them all. I can only hope that when I am home I give them all the love and affection I can and that it’s enough love stored within them to use as a reserve when I’m away.