By Boot Girl Myra, with Boot-Wearing guest, Dee Wise Heinz
It really is all in how you look at the glass, or er, jar. Who wouldn’t want a jar full of chocolate kisses sitting on their counter? What irony though to watch a group of kids get excited when the jar isn’t full. Not that they haven’t had their fair share of kisses, as it’s a big jar. But watching it dwindle brings freakish mad joy! And please, don’t anyone dare add kisses to the jar; that would devastate even the most astute chocolate lover in this scenario.
Meet the Heinz family. Dee and her husband Sean, Senior Chief, US Navy, live on Whidbey Island with their three children: Lauren, age 8, she has gone through 4 deployments with daddy, Avery, age 3, has gone through 2 deployments and Logan , age 2, with 1 deployment on his resume. At the start of every deployment, they assemble the exact number of Hershey kisses to correspond to the days Sean is gone. Each day, the kids pull a “daddy” kiss out of the jar and watch expectantly as the jar dwindles down. One can’t help but wonder what kind of cacophony of excitement ensues, when at last the jar is down to just one lonesome kiss glaring up to their bright shiny eyes from bottom of the jar. A kiss really isn’t just a kiss either. It’s like exchanging part of your soul with someone. So every day, the Heinz kids receive part of their daddy’s soul in candy form, which helps maintain a relationship with him, though he may be thousands of miles away.
Dee’s babysitter went a step further to help keep the Heinz kids connected to their dad by giving the kids their own tangible dad, affectionately known as Flat Daddy. Dee adds, “She made the cardboard and laminated cutout of flat daddy for us. When the kids and I wanted to feel that Sean was with us like on vacation, at birthday parties, etc., we brought Flat Daddy along and took our picture with him. It gave the kids a visual even though daddy wasn’t there physically. Then we would email the photos to daddy and he could enjoy the experience as if he was there as well. It helped all of us lessen the “missing out” feeling a bit. “
Sometimes it takes your besties to help you in the process too. So, Dee’s friend Cindy, jumped in and made some blankies for Sean to give the kids. Dee commented, “he presented them to the kids as a gift the day that he left. It has a picture with him and each child individually and says “Daddy loves [insert name].” The kids loved them and still sleep with them! During the day we stay busy, but when things slow down in the evening, and especially at bedtime, thoughts drift to daddy who is far, far away. Nighttime was always the hardest part for us; so the blankies, pillows and bedtime stories were invaluable to me. All of these things helped us keep daddy close by when he was/is deployed.”
It takes the effort of family friends, and a lot of help from God to get through a deployment, Dee noted. “As a matter of fact we prayed EVERY day for daddy as a family. Anytime the kids would feel sad or down in the dumps we would always stop and say a prayer. It always seemed to help.”
Look at your own children this week, and think about how quickly time passes by. Parents have maybe 18 years to pour into the life of a child. So, what’s one to do when, while parenting, a call to serve country interrupts this vital commitment? It requires a strong resolve to keep the relationships alive. It includes working diligently and creatively to involve each other in the deployment. But what joy comes for everyone, when like Sean, they arrive home to an empty jar of chocolate kisses only to be showered with the kind that can’t be contained.