2014 Military Special Needs Network Holiday Guide Winter 2014 - Page 31

Deployments & The Holidays

Susan Reynolds

Last year I experienced my very first holiday season without my husband. He’s deployed multiple times, but somehow we missed the holiday season until last year.

Of course, my husband and I had our own holiday traditions, but those were changing. Our son was three and he was finally starting to understand Santa and Christmas. I knew our traditions would change little, but last year our holiday traditions changed a lot. My family starts to decorate for Christmas during Thanksgiving weekend. We aren’t Black Friday shoppers so we get our tree and decorations out of the attic and turn our home into a holiday festival.

That changed. I had to ask for help getting our decorations and tree out of the attic. The tree was up early, and I started to decorate before Thanksgiving.

I loved putting my tree up earlier. It took my son and me days to decorate the tree, but it didn’t matter. It was something that we worked on every day and it became our special time. Ian would sit in front of the tree for hours and just stare at it. He also would try to sleep under it because the lights made him happy. As long as he left the ornaments alone, I was let him sit in wonder. Our Christmas tree became the happiest place for my son.

I would hear him talk to the tree and ask for his Daddy. In his sweet toddler mind, Ian thought that the tree would bring his Daddy home. That was hard and I wasn’t sure what do. Then I figured it out: if my toddler believed in magic and beauty of the holidays, who was I to change that? So I didn’t.

Believing in something that isn’t tangible is called faith, my son was showing that he had faith his Daddy would be home. He was right, it just wasn’t for Christmas.

By the time my husband came home, the belief in the holiday season was so strong in our son, the moment my husband Jeremy walked through the door, Ian exclaimed, “Merry Christmas Daddy! Our tree brought you home to me!”

Last year Christmas didn’t end until mid-February in our home. Leaving the tree up and extending our holiday season was new tradition for my family. I loved how we extended Christmas and I loved how much my son believed in the holidays.

Traditions are what you make them to be. Having flexible traditions for my family may not work for yours. That’s okay. I just know that for my son, he needed to believe the spirit of the Christmas. He needed to believe that when he wished for the safe return of his Daddy, that it would happen.

Now as my family is facing another holiday season apart, I will keep our same new traditions. The tree will be up early, and Ian and I will sit in wonder. We will keep the holidays alive and well in our home until our family is together.

Susan Reynolds (@motheradvocate) is the 2014 Joan Orr AF Spouse of the Year. She and her family are currently living in Fort Bragg, NC. Susan loves to read, would never leave college because it’s fun, carries two copies of the US Constitution, and sings frequently (despite her horrid voice). Susan’s greatest passion is advocating for pediatric healthcare reform for military children. She writes about her advocacy at Bad Mother Advocate and writes the Home Front Operations column. Susan has also been called a Master Hugger, since hugs are the most fun!

2014 MSNN Holiday Guide / November, 2014 31