- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I recently returned from my third deployment to Iraq. I’m not going to lie, each deployment gets harder and harder, especially being away from my children. It doesn’t help being a single parent, but you know how it is, Ms. Vicki, a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do, right?

Now after being deployed for 14 months, my children are refusing to return home with me, and I don’t know what to do.

My children are 12 and 15, and both say they don’t want to change schools in the middle of the school year. When did children get to say what they will and won’t do? I’ve never heard of such a thing.

I’m really upset with my mother because, from my point of view, she is not trying to convince my children that they need to be with me and not with her. I feel like I’m being punished for being active duty and serving my country. I’ve been fighting for someone else, but now I’ve lost my children.

My mother is telling me to calm down and that everything is going to be all right. I’m just afraid this is the beginning of the end of me being a parent to my children. Suppose my mother won’t release them in May after school is out? Then what am I going to do?

I’m planning on going to get them next month, and if they won’t come with me, then I’m going to get an attorney to make my mother release my children.

Ms. Vicki, please print my letter. I want to know I’m not the only one who has this problem. I have to know there is someone on my side. — Mother Whose Children Refuse to Come Home

Dear Mother,

I hear you, and I can understand why you are concerned. I know many readers will understand your position, too.

Thank you for all of your hard work and sacrifice. I know being an active-duty service member is not easy, especially for single parents. You are doing a lot more than many of us could ever do. I truly applaud you.

Regarding your children, I think they simply want to complete the school year in their current school. I have to admit that I understand their concerns. They are at a crucial time in their academic development and also friends can be quite important at their ages.

I really don’t want you to think of them as being obstinate or that they are turning their backs on you. I don’t think that’s the case.

My advice is to visit your children soon and spend time reconnecting with them. This would be a great time to explore their feelings and find out what they have experienced and how they’ve grown since your deployment. You should also share with them. Let them know how much you love them. I think everything is going to be OK.

If you would like to meet with a professional therapist or counselor, let me know and I will send you some resources on base. Continue to take care of yourself and keep in touch with me.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her Dear Ms. Vicki column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearmsvicki@yahoo.com

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