“I want daddy. Why won’t his boat come home faster?”
My four year old asked me this two nights ago. . . and though I’ve had practice hearing and answering the question at age 1, age 2, and age 3. . . it never gets any easier to hear, or easier to explain.
At 1, it was “daddy is on the boat and we’ll see him soon”
At 2, I added in “daddy is at work on the boat in the water and he will be home soon”
At 3, I said “daddy is working to protect us and our country on the Coast Guard boat – and he’s on his way home to us, but big boats move slowly.”
And two nights ago, I answered at least 10 questions about where daddy is, what he’s doing, when he’ll be home, and why it won’t be tomorrow.
“I want daddy home tomorrow.”
Those words never get any easier to hear.
No matter what explanation of daddy’s duty and service to our country and dedication to and love for his family I have, those words – and the face that accompanies it . . . never gets any easier.
So, I hold her tight, and I let her tears fall on my face, on my neck, and my chest. I listen to her tell me how sad she is that daddy’s not here, and why she hates the Coast Guard for taking him from her. I wait and I listen. I hold her, and I whisper that the Coast Guard needs daddy, and he is only at work, and will be back soon. I tell her that daddy is coming home, and I talk about how proud I am of how hard he works to protect our family and our country, and how proud I am of her for being his big girl back at home. She sniffles, sticks her hands under my arms, and sighs.
“I guess the Coast Guard is OK. But I still want my daddy. I love him.”
So, I tell her a little secret: “Abbey, if you tell God that, if you pray and open your heart to Him, He will take your prayers for daddy and whisper them to him. Wherever daddy is, your prayers and your love are with him too, through God. Isn’t that awesome?”
And her little eyes light up a bit. . . the knowledge that she can connect with her daddy almost, almost stopping the tears.
“Like God comes into my heart to help me not say potty words?”
“Yes, baby. Just like that. You let Him in, and you thank Him, and talk to Him about daddy, and His love can connect us, no matter where daddy is, or how far away he is.”
And we pray together for a minute before I kiss her goodnight and she falls asleep, surrounded by her books and highlights magazines and stuffed animals, and daddy’s, mommy’s, brother’s, and God’s love.
It never gets any easier to tell her we have to wait for daddy to come home. It never gets any easier to hear her say how heartbroken she is that he is not here with her.
But I cherish the moment that I get to help her see that he is not without her, and she is not without him, through our love as a family, and God’s love for us.
Those words that break my heart. . . lead me to the reminder of God’s promises for us, and remind me to teach my children of his warmth and grace.
Those words that break my heart. . . “I want daddy.” . . . They don’t tug at my resolve anymore. The pangs I feel in my heart when I see hers breaking a little – remind me to see the opportunity to love and teach faith with my little girl.
Daddy will come home. And he is always with us through the grace that connects us through Jesus.
No matter how hard the separation.