In 2011, my family endured our 7th deployment. By this time, we would have thought as a family we would have had it down. However, each deployment has its own challenges. Our children were getting older and two of them were entering their teenage years. That meant a lot of growing, soul searching, and raging hormones. Not fun!
My 13 year old son seemed to struggle the most, with all the changes that were happening within him but he also needed his father during this important time in his life. Antonio began to struggle in school with behavior issues and academically. Most of all, He felt abandoned and became very bitter. He was no longer his sweet and funny self.
As his mother, it was very tough to take in, so I overcompensated and tried to fill in the gaps where my husband couldn’t. This only seemed to makes things worse, but I was determined. 3 months had passed by and our son detached himself from my husband completely. When he would call, Antonio wouldn’t speak to him and ignored all his emails. It broke my heart for the both of them.
I decided to seek therapy. I thought if a professional therapist could just tell me what to do in order to fix this, I would do it and everything would go back to the way it was with our son. I remember meeting with the therapist for the first time and explaining the situation. I told her everything I was doing in order to fix it, including trying to be a father figure to our son. I will never forget the moment she looked me in the eyes and said, “You can never be his father, so stop trying.” It was exactly what I needed to hear!
That day I realized a lot. Most of all, my son just needed me to be his mother. He needed my love and nurturing during this painful time. My husband tried to connect with our son more and emailed him even though he continued not to respond. We knew he was reading them. Antonio began therapy 3 months later and it seemed to help him deal with his emotions. He was less bitter and even spoke to his father a couple times over the phone.
Homecoming was around the corner, and I was so afraid of what the outcome would be. Would our son shut down? Would he be excited to see his father? Could I handle seeing the tension between them? This was supposed to be the exciting part of deployment, yet it felt bittersweet.
When the ship pulled in and my husband walked down the pier to meet us, I seen our son smile for the first time in a while. That’s when I knew there was hope. I was just so happy that we were a complete family again. I knew it was going to take time to re-connect. My husband was patient with Antonio and took the time to get to know him as a teenager. It took time, but Antonio finally came around. We started to see the joy in in our son again. We all struggle, it’s part of who we are. It’s tough, but I believe that during those times in our lives is when we grow the most!
Deployments are hard and you will face challenges you never seen coming. You have to fight to stay connected to your loved ones. Even though you can’t make up for lost time, you somehow pick up right where you left off.