So we have survived the first longish stint of Daddy Being Away.
It was only about a month but Im feeling bloody proud that I have managed to keep both children alive with very little outside help and snotty colds and 8 week jabs. Im also a tad relieved that I haven’t lost it and left them at a nunnery. (And no this is not just because I don’t know any Hampshire nunneries).
Ive had quite bad mum guilt that I didn’t try to do more wholesome “making memories” shit. I didn’t even attempt any baking and I can safely say that the iPad is partially raising my toddler. We have watched a lot of Disney.
But they are alive so I’m chalking it up as a win.
Whilst Popeye was stuck down in Plymouth (because his ship was buggered-giant surprise) we were able to finally try out the separation pack we had been given from Little Troopers .
This helped with the mum guilt because I was getting so fed up of this:
Me-“on his boat.”
Sweetpea-“[see] Daddy soon?”
Me- (silent sob) “no see Daddy later. Daddy gone night night on the boat.”
Sweetpea-“bye bye Daddy”
Me- “yes that’s right, bye bye daddy.”
Talk about heartbreaking! And, after the gazillionth time, dare I say, a little bit annoying?
That’s when the separation pack really came into play. It actually helped Sweetpea grasp what was going on and helped me not lose my mind from having to explain it to her over and over again.
It gave the whole downer of being separated from Popeye/Daddy an actual positive vibe and I can’t recommend it enough.
What is it? An A4 pack of resources and ideas of things to do to help your children cope with a parent being away from home.
First I chose an area in the house to put it all up. I didn’t want to to be too prominent in the house- I didn’t want her to be reminded Popeye was gone all the time- I also chose somewhere quiet so she could go there to think about Daddy when she needed to.
( I also wouldn’t put stuff on the wall above the dogs water bowl if your child likes water play and pulling things off of walls. 😑)
I found an OK photo of Sweetpea with Popeye and put that in the special “Hero” (a bit cheesy for me but v sweet for children) frame. This gave Sweetpea something to focus on and she could go and kiss the photo good night or we used it to talk about Daddy from time to time too. She also put it down the loo at one point but I’ve told Popeye not to take this personally. (And photos don’t dissolve if you antibac them btw- who knew?)
My favourite thing about the separation pack was the chuff chart. It’s supposed to be for the kids but to be honest I was using it just as much as the Sweetpea.
The chuff chart is really practical- you can adapt it for any length of separation-you just add another calendar sheet if you need to. You can decorate or colour it in and there’s a “notes” bit if your trooper needs to jot anything important down. You can put stickers on it if you’ve been on day trips (not that we did lol) and really adapt it for your family.
As Sweetpea is quite little we did a ten day countdown as she only knows up to number ten. By the time we got halfway through she was getting the idea. She was running up to it first thing when we came downstairs ready to cross off another “sleep”! (Not sure if this is because the pack is really good or my daughter is a child prodigy/genius. Ahem).
There’s a little instruction leaflet that was brilliant for people like me who are permanently exhausted from single-parenting-without-the-benefits or (also like me) have the creative ability of the DVLAs phone system.
We did one of the ideas from the leaflet- we made a Post Box for all of the art Sweetpea did whilst Popeye was away.
It worked really well when he got home and they opened the box and she could show him what she had made for him.
If he had been away longer we would’ve posted them out to him. I really wanted to do the “send a hug” idea too but Sweetpea would not lie down and after trying and failing to pin her down to draw round her outstretched arms with a felt tip between my teeth I admitted defeat. Maybe when she’s older or when she’s asleep.
In general the activities and ideas are really varied and can be adapted depending on the age of your Little Trooper or what interests them.
There is a big map too where you can put stickers of where you’ve lived, where you’ve been on holiday and where your service person is. This was great but I felt it was a bit geared towards army families and soldiers that are based in one place for a long time, so to cater to our situation I cut out a picture of a navy ship from the patterned writing paper in the pack, and moved that around the map. You could get a photo of the ship for longer deployments but doing this worked fine for us.
There’s a bit in there that explains why the official flower of military children is a dandelion. Not going to give it away here but it had me in actual proper tears and I’m now thinking of getting another tattoo this time of a dandelion.
All in all it is a really useful little kit. You can join an online community of Little Troopers and they do meet ups, camps and events, so that your children can get to know other military children. This is especially useful to families like ours that don’t live in married quarters. And they are a charity so they do lots of fun fundraising stuff too.
If you want to find out more visit their website http://www.littletroopers.net
P.s they do a bracelet too that I have nicked from Sweetpea to remind me which boob is next for feeding Sproglet.