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Grandma's Top Ten Lessons for Deployments

She cared for her daughter's child, then offered up here visions of success

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amily Matters guest blogger, Debbie Nichols, is a military mom and grandma. Her daughter, Tech. Sgt. Erin Caldwell, is in the Air Force, and she has two grandchildren, Ivie and Bailey. Debbie cared for her grandchildren when her daughter, a single mom at the time, deployed to Afghanistan, and will continue to support them and her new son-in-law when her daughter deploys again in the coming year.

In this blog, Debbie shares her top 10 lessons learned while caring for her grandchildren during her daughter's deployment in Afghanistan. - Elaine Wilson

By Debbie Nichols

It took me some time to think about what I had learned while caring for my grandchildren during my daughter's deployment, because when you live through a challenging time, you don't think about what you are learning from it. You are just trying to cope.

I remember there were days I wished I was not in that situation and just wanted to have my old life back. And there were days I cherished having my two granddaughters living with us.

Once I started making my top 10 list of lessons learned, I realized I could have made the list much longer. But I focused on the knowledge gained that I felt other guardians would find the most useful.

Here is my top 10 list of lessons learned during a loved one's deployment:

1. Don't be afraid of deployment. I was, but learned how to adapt.

2. You may feel a sense of loss. I had a feeling of loss the first few weeks when our daughter deployed, but once she was able to communicate with me on the phone, that feeling of loss went away.

3. Conversations with your deployed loved one may be limited. No long conversations on the phone. At times when my daughter called I got so excited at hearing my daughter's voice, I would forget what I wanted to tell her. I learned to keep a list of items near the phone so when she called, I wouldn't forget.

4. Preparation is key. I created a new mindset that my role had changed and decided I was going to make the best of the situation.

5. Separation is tough. Deployment is not like when your child goes to their annual trainings, when you can just give them a call if you need to speak to them. You will be disconnected and it is going to take some time to adjust.

6. Raising children today is very different from raising kids 30 years ago. Everything is different now. For example, I learned the term "stranger danger." When I was raising my children I had them speak to everyone while they were growing up. My granddaughters informed me that it's not OK for them to speak to strangers.

7. Children adapt quickly to change. They enjoyed my husband and me acting as their parents and they accepted our house rules very quickly.

8. Lean on your family for support. We all became stronger because we relied on one another. My husband and I, my daughter and my granddaughters all went full circle, supporting each other in what we had to do. I thought we were close before, but now, we truly understand each other.

9. It's tough to adjust back to former roles. Once the deployment was over I then had to learn to be a grandma again, and this was an adjustment as well. I had no idea the bonds I had formed with my granddaughters during that time would become so strong. My granddaughters were a part of my daily life and I had to adjust again when they left.

10. Be patient and understanding. When my daughter returned from her deployment she acted differently due to her deployment living conditions, even though she did not experience tragedy. Communication was even more important after she returned than during her deployment. It took my daughter many weeks just to get used to living in the United States again. It took her months to adjust back to being a full-time mom.

The most important lesson I learned from deployment, I think, is you make it what you want it to be.

During that time, I learned a lot about deployment, my family, my relationship with my husband, and even more about myself. I never thought that my daughter's career would affect my career and my outlook of life. Now my desire is to help other military families.

I hope you don't hesitate to share your deployment lessons learned.

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