While I love seeing all of the wonderful homecomings, I think it is slightly misleading about one thing: Not all homecomings are picture perfect.
I wouldn't even be thinking this way if it hadn't been for my R & R experience with my oldest son this past December. I know I blogged about it shortly after it happened, but let me tell you a little more.
My oldest son, Ryan, had just turned 3. His Daddy had been gone for over 6 months at this point. Ryan doesn't talk about it much, and he doesn't seem to really understand anything I can tell him about it. He's just a little too young, and Daddy's absence is a lot to deal with at his age where he is not capable of expressing his feelings. So here is the scene for those who don't remember or haven't heard it:
Daddy is waiting in a completely empty airport (it was eerie how empty it was). Daddy had stopped at a gift shop and bought a stuffed animal for each boy. The boys and I enter the airport from a far door and are walking down a straight pathway. We can see Daddy at a far distance down the way. I ask Ryan who he sees. I've never seen a reaction out of him like the one that happened next. His face crumpled and emotion was just spilling out of him. He was tugging on me pleading that we turn back and go home. Daddy is waiting with open arms and no one is running toward him. There were two witnesses working a kiosk right in front of our Soldier waiting to see the welcome home. I continue walking toward my husband with my oldest child practically dragging his feet while holding my sweater and tugging me in the opposite direction. Ryan is sobbing and hiding behind me. We finally get to Daddy and the crying escalates. No hugs, no kisses, nothing but tears and emotions. Daddy offers Ryan a stuffed animal that he bought special just for him, and Ryan cannot even look at him. We decide that it is a lost cause at the moment. Daddy then focuses his attention to our 14 month old, Sean. When Daddy goes to hold Sean he too starts screaming. This was no surprise. Sean is very shy at this stage, but after Ryan's reaction I had been hoping someone would warmly welcome Daddy home. The two workers at the kiosk have averted their eyes by this point. They too realized that this was not the scene they had expected. With tears in my eyes, mostly for the disappointment I'm sure Pat is feeling, it is now my turn to welcome my husband home for his R & R. I attempt to hug and kiss him with a crying child in my arms and one wrapped around my legs. It was clear that the moment was over, and we knew we needed to move on from the welcome home part and try to reintegrate.
I hadn't expected picture perfect, but I had hoped for a warm reception. I expected shyness from Ryan, and knew it was coming from Sean. I had not expected a complete emotional breakdown from my 3 year old. In that moment the difficulties of deployments came into a new light for me.
As my sister says, that scene probably would have ended up on the cutting room floor on the show Coming Home. I know I'm not the only one to have a reunion story like this. While it is great to watch the moment of complete joy at the return of a loved Soldier, sometimes it's not all pretty and picture perfect. I know that no one wants to watch the struggles, but there are a multitude of challenges that face a family that is beginning the process of reintegration. So while I am happy to see a light shined onto the military families in this country, I think I'd like people to realize it is more than what is shown on TV.
On a different and more upbeat note about the show, I ended up watching it with Ryan this week. I had started watching it while he was playing, but once he saw it was about a knight his attention was immediately on the show. Ryan is currently obsessed with knights. I decided if he was going to watch, I would use it as a tool to help prepare him. At each homecoming we saw on the show, I made sure to point out how the kids hugged and kissed their Daddy and that it was a happy moment. When the homecoming scene in the hangar at Ft. Campbell was on, I explained how that was the same way Daddy was going to come home next month. Unfortunately, I think the show confused Ryan a little bit, because his response was, "No, I want Daddy to be a knight!". I think I have a lot more explaining to do. ;-D