So this isn’t our first rodeo, if substituting the word “rodeo” for deployment makes any sense whatsoever, but you get the gist.

The first time I noticed that my son not only missed his father, but missed bonding with another guy was during our second deployment, Little B’s first (I was preggo our first deployment). I had taken The Boy to the local playground on post. Although we had a playground across the street from our base housing, it was in pretty bad shape. In fact, I always thought that it should have been razed. Either way, that one day, the one I’ll always remember, I packed up my littlest Brooks and headed to the park for some fun.

When we got there we did our usual routine.   A lot of exploring and toddling around, exploring the different structures but really needing help for most of it. At some point he noticed the swings out of the corner of his eye. We’d been there a while and I remember being relieved I’d be able to push him on the swings for a bit and rest up my feet. And yet, he did the most curious thing. There was a soldier in uniform pushing his daughter on the swings. And Little Brooks made his way over and placed himself right in front of the guy, and looked up at him, like “Hey. Push me!”

Now I know a lot of you may be saying, gee, she’s reading a lot into that. He was so itty bitty. Was he really thinking that? But I know my boy and I remember feeling my heart break in two, seeing that look on his face, and knowing he was missing his Daddy.

See, because the thing is, that even the little one’s miss their parents when they’re gone. They miss them too. They know.

And the thing I’ve learned over these past deployments with The Boy is that as much as he misses his Dad, as much as he longs to spend time with him, to feel his arms around him, to play with him, and laugh with him… that he can’t be replaced. Dad is Dad, there is no substitute. But I’ve also learned that he craves that male bonding, that play and attention from a guy that well, can only come from a guy. Mom is Mom is Mom. I can’t ever be Dad. I can’t ever replace him. And no one can, but when it comes down to it, I know he misses that male companionship too.

Being a military family, we don’t have the privilege of being near male relatives. My brother is about three hours away, but his job is demanding and usually when we visit he’s away. As little Brooks has gotten older he’s been able to get that male bonding from his friends, but I can tell, that when he spends time with another guy, that he enjoys that too. It’s just different than being with little ol’ me all day.

When my friend Kat told me she was coming to visit with her husband and daughter so we could have some company, I was thrilled. Mainly because I’d had a horrible reaction to a narcotic and had been feeling blue and anxious and depressed. All things that don’t usually go hand in hand with Me. I was so happy to sit and talk to with other human beings face to face. To sit around the table instead of laying on the couch. And I loved that The Boy was able to play with their daughter and have some company too. We’ve been cooped up, really and truly. But I was also pleased that little Brooks got a little bit of male bonding time with Phil.

Brooks has been playing a new video game, and obviously, I’m no help in that department. And when Brooks realized that Phil was an expert, if you will, at this game, he was tickled pink. I know how much it meant to me to have them visit, to sit and chat and laugh. And I know it meant a lot to Brooks to spend some time with a friend, and to play some video games with Phil.

Last night was pretty rough. Side effects from medications really blow. This morning wasn’t very promising either. I am so grateful for all the people in our life that care about us, and that enrich our lives, day to day.

I’m thankful for my husband too. For the sacrifices he makes, for the amazing partner and friend that he is. For the amazing father that he is, the way he’s missed is testament to that. I can only imagine how tough it must be to hear a sobbing wife hundreds of miles away, knowing that his fixes are limited, his words his only comfort. And you know what. It’s more than enough. I am grateful for even that. More than anything.