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The Five Stages of Deployment

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It is almost 8 weeks since Daddy Big Feet returned home from his 6 month Deployment. I wanted to write a post like this for a while but seasons like these are often better when allowed to marinate for a while.

The truth of the matter is, often people think that once our deployed loved ones return that all goes back to normal. This is not the case, in fact it can take weeks for normality to return. It is one full of ups and downs, happiness, arguments and readjustments. To make matters more complicated with lots of deployments in the forces, often families are moved soon after their loved ones return, as was the case with us. Daddy Feet returned and we moved about 3 weeks later. So here we are in a new county and location, new nursery and school for the Little Feet and it has taken some time generally to regain our balance.

If one were to break a deployment season down I would say it was one of FIVE stages. I write from a magnolia-walled truth, broken down into factual emotions of what we went through as a family with young Little Feet. Every deployment can differ depending on what life stage you are, my Five Stages looked different when we went through a 7 month deployment when we didn’t have Little Feet. This is where we were this time.

THE FIVE STAGES OF DEPLOYMENT


STAGE ONE: FINDING OUT A DEPLOYMENT IS HAPPENING

This is when your other half comes home (if you have an emotionally aware husband or wife!) and tells you they are being sent on deployment. Firstly, it is just being told that that produces an intake of breath. Then you wait for the ‘how long’ and the ‘how dangerous’. In that time, your stomach has dropped to your feet and your heart is in your mouth as you wait to hear the verdict. While your uniformed spouse is rattling off details, you are probably already working out what they’ll be missing in those months and wondering how you’ll all survive. Emotions can be erratic and can honestly range from unexpected malfunctions of tear ducts, to stoic silence, to hysterical laughter. Honestly, you can’t predict which one of those it will be until it is already happening.

STAGE TWO: THE BUILD UP TO THE DEPLOYMENT

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Visual: imagine a balloon being blown up very slowly. If you don’t stop blowing the sheer pressure of the air has no where to go… POP

This is one of the most unbearable parts that I have previously talked about. For your Little Feet they don’t really understand what is going on or the concept of one of their parents being away for a ‘long, long’ time. What they do understand and feel is the atmosphere that is building in the house they live in. As much as the Big Feet try and control themselves, it is really out of their hands. Emotions go from ‘I love yous’ and embraces that last forever, to uncontrollable bickering and arguments. Those being left behind desperately trying to organise themselves but are acutely aware of the panic bubbling away at their chests. Those that are going away are no better. If you have Little Feet, it is the physical and emotional pain of knowing how much they will miss in the next few months.

STAGE THREE: THE FIRST HALF OF THE DEPLOYMENT

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This part begins with physical pain. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it is the honest truth. I have talked about this in previous posts. As the adults we have to be strong for our Little Feet who are confused, whose sleep will be disturbed for weeks because of the unsettlement of Daddy or Mummy not being there. The tears. But mostly the pain. For the husband or wife left behind, those first few days stretch out like a desert with no end in sight. The pang in your chest feels like you are repeatedly getting your heart ripped out as it is ravaged by a pack of wild animals. It aches as if it is empty. And before you assume this is just me being melodramatic, I’ve had conversations with others who described this feeling unprompted. That ache thankfully subsides and becomes your companion for the duration. The pain becomes bearable as its taint reminds you that your family is incomplete.

STAGE FOUR: RNR AND THE SECOND HALF OF THE DEPLOYMENT

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Rest and Recuperation (RnR) is the magical wish come true and the magical curse realised. Again, I have talked about this before. The two week period of your loved ones coming home in the middle(ish) of their deployments (if 5 months or longer) are a gift and a curse. They are wonderful times to reconnect, but also to be on edge knowing the inevitable is happening again. The pressure of cherishing every last second weighs heavily on you and can feel like you can barely breathe.

If you have Little Feet, they may have only just gone back to sleeping properly and this excitement shakes it up and then disrupts it all over again when they leave. Older ones who now have a concept of how ‘long, long’ really is, realise that their parent is going to be gone for that same time again.

I mentioned tears in Stage Three, but these tears were just babbling brooks in comparison to the sheer force of the waterfalls that will occur in Stage Four. Or at least they did for us. Stage Four was hands down the worst stage of us in our 5 Stages of Deployment. Emotionally my eldest was broken. She became a shell of herself, not wanting to go to school, crying at school, anxious about being alone at any time, broken sleep with horrifying nightmares. It was the pits and painfully difficult to watch her go through that. My youngest’s sleep suffered the entire deployment that we ended up co-sleeping for half the night so that we both got some sleep.

STAGE FIVE: HOMECOMING AND LIFE READJUSTMENTS

He is home. Oh joyous day!

Well that is done and dusted right? HA. We all wish.

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Alas, no. No in Stage Five you can still feel the aftermath reverberations many weeks afterwards. The first week is exuberant but scattered with routine reminders of how things are done or how the children’s routines have changed. The irritation starts to show, you have spent the last half of the year having complete control of the house. How tidy it is, where everything has a place, you have your own routine, the kids have their routine, you have an evening routine. And all of that has been thrown up in the air. Suddenly, three people are sleeping in the bed and that no longer works, suddenly their is kit everywhere in piles of laundry, boots…oh so many boots! In a blink of an eye your military ordered house has become chaotic and crowded. Suddenly you realise you have to allow them back into your lives. This sounds ridiculous but honestly to survive you have had to create a rigid life just to get through the other side.

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Daddy Big Feet was home for a week before I went away for a much needed week of me time with my sister. This was preplanned and kept me going through those 6 months. I had never been away from my girls for that long but I was excited. It meant that Daddy had some proper Daddy-Daughter time and I had some switch off time. So off I went to Rome and I spent the time not being ‘Mummy’ but me, Grace. In that time, I thought of nothing other than what we would see that day, what we’d eat and what I’d wear (and thinking about the children, obviously!). I had no timings to catch, my sister pretty much did all the navigation and all the necessary tourist planning. We pounded the streets of Rome for 6 days and though my legs and feet were knackered, day by day I began to feel a like I was being put back together slowly. That week scattered the many hats I had taken to wearing and simplified the hat down to my own personal hat.

Stage Five has been one of realisations for myself. Emotionally I had nothing left. Physically my body was on its knees and mentally my fortifications were showing cracks in the highly built up walls I had created. To be truthful my body is still recovering and I’ve had some hard truths to come to terms with.

Two weeks after my return we moved house and it is here I write this blog. A week after moving my back went. I suffer from lower back pain sporadically but this was hands down the worst I have ever experienced. In the mornings I physically couldn’t get out of bed. The pain was excruciating when my spine realigned itself when I attempted to sit up. I was in tears every morning as it took me almost half an hour to go from flat to sitting and then standing with the help of Daddy Big Feet. I can thankfully say that I am no longer in that much pain thanks to acupuncture and a wonderful osteopath. Those two weeks were terrifying, I couldn’t do anything with the kids and I had almost all my family over for the Easter weekend, in a house that we had just about unpacked. I only mention this because it made me realise that I had still emotionally and mentally been going at it alone since Daddy Big Feet had returned. I had still been going full pelt ahead since he had returned. But I was in so much pain and I felt like my body was finally saying enough. He had to help me physically and emotionally. I am mostly forever thankfully it happened after he was home as I honestly don’t know what I would have done if he wasn’t.

Life has slowed down again and like an onion I’m slowly peeling away. And guess what, we are finally getting back to the beginning in a beautiful circle.

Little Feet A is finally enjoying school again at her new school (it was a bumpy couple of weeks). Little Feet B seems to enjoy her new nursery and there haven’t been any tears. Both girls are finally starting to sleep better now they understand Daddy is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The house is finally coming together, Daddy Big Feet begins work in a couple of days and we are slowly falling back into life’s rhythms.

So for now we are back as a family of four and a fur ball, hopefully for a good few months, perhaps even for a couple of years, before the inevitable will happen again…

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Reflections of an (almost) post-deployment Forces Wife

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Our deployment is coming to an end and I can’t help but look back and do some reflecting on successes, failings and realisations. I am sure the thought that will cross many of your minds will be, ‘well that went quick.’ This is a common phrase that is often bandied about. I know this because I’ve said it before to those left at home during a deployment. It’s because when you are not directly in the thick of it, it does seem like it flies by. For the ones left at home it is a blur of time, one that feels like you’re simultaneously both in an eye of a hurricane and standing still.

Daddy Big Feet left at the beginning of October 2018. But he was away even before then on a month long work trip overseas, so he missed Little Feet A’s first day of school, pumpkin season and then halloween, Little Feet B’s 2nd birthday, Bonfire night, we missed his birthday, the build up to Christmas and Little Feet A’s first nativity play (she was Mary). And that was just the things he missed at end of 2018. When you start to run through all the events that came and went, all the tears and all the laughter it’s only then you acknowledge the time lost. Little Feet B was saying single words when he left, she now can speak in full sentences.

In hindsight, I am actually grateful at the timing of the deployment. It being at the end of the year meant there were so many days and events to look forward to. Being someone who always like to do crafts with the Little Feet, Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. So we had loads of fun activities we did, bonfire night, trick or treating, birthdays, nativities. As a result, the Little Feet’s tears subsided fairly quickly. On top of that I was very busy with my own work and so evenings and any spare moments I had were at computer or at our craft table.

Alas, it has been the second side of this deployment, after Daddy Feet’s RnR which has been the real kicker. I have spoken about the double edged sword of the two week break that deployed personnel are given if they are away for 5 months +. It is wonderful off course, but it is also deeply unsettling for all involved, especially for Little Feet. This is our first deployment with Little Feet and as a result it has been all new territory. For us the second half has been filled to the brim with oceans of tears, sleepless nights scattered with nightmares and for me a whole lot of emotional eating with glugs of gin and wine thrown in for good measure.

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  1. Having no kids during a deployment is deeply lonely, but doing a deployment with two young children is mentally, emotionally and physically shattering.

At the start of this deployment I knew it would be interesting to compare the deployments that we have gone through as a couple. The first one happened soon after we got married. I was pregnant and we had our dog Pongo, but no children yet. Daddy Big Feet went out as a squadron so there were many wives and girlfriends left behind. This was great for camaraderie, however I had no kids at the time where most others did and though the wives made sure to include those without kids, it was still isolating. Those 6 months were some of the loneliest months I have ever experienced, especially as we were miles away from family and friends.

This time round though I have found it lonely, I haven’t been short of conversation as my Little Feet barely stop talking. Rather this time it has been truly exhausting in every sense. The early mornings and late nights, walking the fur ball, planning ahead so not to be caught out, my own work, homework, swimming lessons etc. Having said that, the first half of this deployment I was full pelt ahead, I had all the energy even without much sleep. The second half of this deployment however I have found I have been on my knees.

Deployments in whatever life situation you are in are rubbish. Period.

2. Unexpected side effects of stress

I have always been affected by stress. As a teenager I used to get migraines in the aftermath of stressful and emotional periods. These thankfully subsided the older I got, however as time went on this was replaced by stress moving internally to externally - to my scalp that is. It’s a running family joke that you can tell how stressed I am by the amount of dandruff you can see.

As it happens the older I get the more my body reacts to stress, now stress is inextricably linked with my skin and the gradual emergence of eczema which I never previously had. In the last 6 months my body has just been falling apart. As a result I have had to really be disciplined with making time for my own self-care, which has not been easy and I’m the first to admit I’ve fallen short regularly. I’m not great at putting myself first. The majority of this eczema came out on my hands which as a parent is extremely difficult as you are washing your hands multiple times during the day, then bath time, washing up and it was during winter so I had to go everywhere with my gloves as the cold just made it worse.

Stress can emerge in very different ways for different people. Watch for them and make sure to monitor them, they aren’t always physical.

3. Comfort eating

In the last 5 months, I have had to admit to myself that I am and probably always have been a secret comfort eater. Whereas many wives I know end up losing weight and seemingly eat much better when their husbands are away, I am the opposite. With no time to go to the gym and having to work in the evenings, exercise bar doing school, nursery runs and dog walks are non-existent.

Op-healthy starts again when Daddy Big Feet returns.

4. Having your own work or hobby during a deployment is essential

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Having a sense of purpose and something you can throw yourself into just for you is vital. It keeps your mind occupied and gives you something to focus on. My work has been my life saver this deployment.

Make plans, create goals, keep busy.

5. That going T-total on a 6 month deployment was a laughable idea (ask any forces wife)

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Our last deployment I was pregnant and so was completely T-total for the entire 7 months. This time round I had planned to do the same. Two weeks into this deployment I realised this was a hysterically hilarious decision and reached for the Gin. I have not at any point regretted this decision! Some days knowing I had a G&T or glass of wine waiting for me after the Little Feet were in bed kept me going like you wouldn’t imagine.

Alcohol in moderation takes the edge off. Any more then moderation is a BIG mistake when there’s only you to get up in the morning.

6. That throwing some house rules out the Window is ok

As a family, we are quite strict in some aspects of our Little Feet’s lives. We eat together at the table and not in front of the TV, the Little Feet aren’t allowed to watch tv in the morning during week days but are on the weekends, the tv doesn’t go on in the afternoon until at least 4pm and no televisions upstairs.

Some of these were thrown out of the window this deployment and I have no regret in doing so. We got a tv for our room upstairs so that on the weekends, I could doze while the Little Feet watched TV safe in the confines of our bedroom and they were allowed breakfast upstairs those days too. Films during evening meals happened on a Sunday night - a night where I didn’t have to fight with them to eat their food. Sweets too. I have used more sweets as bribery then I have ever done, in particular for luring Little Feet A out to walk Pongo our dog at the weekends. Something that has always been a battle with her. Give her a lollipop though and she’ll happily skip around the fields with not so much as a frown on her face.

Compromise is essential.

7. Putting certain things ‘down’ during a deployment

Spinning plates above your head like a circus act can often be how we feel during a deployment. Desperately trying to keep everything spinning perfectly so life can continue as it normally does. If you manage this during a deployment you are a bit of a legend in my book, but for most some of those plates do end up hitting the ground and shattering at some point or many points. Putting some things ‘down’ for a season can be important. Where as I would have liked to have posted more on this blog over the last three months it has taken a hit. The last three months have been really tough and unfortunately it was this space that I had to put down.

Seasons come and go, sometimes you have to let go of something for a while.

8. Co-sleeping

An emotive topic. One that everyone has an opinion about, especially those without children. Sorry to those who are reading that that applies too. I was one of those people. I was THE best parent when I had no Little Feet. I regularly used to compare my dog to other people’s children and was adamant that I would not raise a fussy eater. Let’s be honest, we are all like that. By the way, I now have a fussy eater and find it annoying when people compare their dogs to children!

Now, I don’t think we would say have ever properly co-slept. Little Feet A regularly came into our bed from about 4am until Little Feet B came along. She was an awful sleeper (thankfully she barely stirs now) and she just loved the comfort of sleeping in our bed. If she didn’t come into our bed, that would be her, up for the day at 4am. It was a no brainer.

Little Feet B as a baby and young toddler just couldn’t sleep in our bed, she just would never settle, she’d flail about like an octopus trying to dance with a starfish and no one got any sleep.

Then Daddy Big Feet went on deployment her need for comfort at night went through the roof. She spent the first month of his deployment having to sleep on my chest when she woke up at night, just like she did when she was a newborn. As time went on and I tried to break this habit, I realised I was exhausted, fractious and it was affecting my parenting. Not able to let her scream as she shares a room with her sister and spending hours sat on the floor in their room at night, I was mentally and physically exhausted. So, I went into survival mode. She goes to sleep in their room and anywhere between 23:30-1:-00 she comes into bed. I don’t even bother trying to get her back into her bed. You know why? Because in minutes she is fast asleep in our bed for the rest of the night. Breaking that habit is future Grace’s problem. For now, we survived and you know what? It has been nice to have company in bed.

Do what works for you and your family. Your children need a Mummy or Daddy that can function properly. Outside opinions on that are well and truly not welcome.

9. Knowing that it will be an emotional time is not the same as seeing it happen in real time

This seems like an obvious statement. I knew emotionally it was going to be a rollercoaster ride, but boy did it throw us up to outer space and then let us free fall all the way back down to Earth. To those who are adrenaline junkies and think that sounds kind of fun, remember the part when you enter the Earth’s atmosphere and then turn into a gravitational fireball? Not so fun.

The first half of the deployment we had the expected emotions, the second half caught me unprepared. Basically I got cocky. The amount of emotions Little Feet A had after RnR when her Daddy went back and the form it presented itself in took me by surprise and we are still seeing the effects of the aftermath even now.

Lesson: Don’t let your guard down and assume just because your Little Feet are fine for some of the deployment that they will be for the whole of it.

10. It is surprisingly easy to end up blocking out your spouse by just trying to just get through to the other side alive

This has been an important reflection and lesson for me. Our spouses are working almost every day when they are away and when they are done they go back to a soulless bedroom with only electronic contact and letters to the ones they love. It is really hard to be left at home, but it is also really awful for those on deployment too. It’s hard for them not to be jealous when we are having fun and hard for them when we are down and going through hard times without them. The pressure of having to be enthusiastic and talkative over the phone for 6 months is extremely draining. This goes the other way as well. Being low, down and negative down the phone for weeks at a time is not helpful to either side. I have been painfully guilty of this since January and it was something that has to be addressed.

Be mindful of your spouse and the emotions you are both feeling. It is hard for both sides.

11. It’s ok, not to be ok

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You don’t have to be positive all the time, that is exhausting and unrealistic. Sometimes we need that time to batten down the hatches and hibernate in the confines of our house and mind. But we just need to be careful not to set up camp there, light a fire and start roasting marshmallows over it. The longer you stay down there, the harder it is to pull yourself out of that watering hole.

Have your time and then get up and try really hard to snap out of it. Try look forward to little things in your day. Even if it is a hot cup of coffee on your own.

12. It’s ok to say no and prioritise your family over other people’s feelings in order to survive a difficult season

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Seasons like these are hard. You can’t do it all and if you find yourself doing it all you generally are looking at sometime in the near future crashing and finding life too overwhelming. It will eventually come to a head, I talk from experience. Knowing your limits and those of your children in order to keep a steady routine will mean a more smooth sailing deployment. That means if you’ve been out all day and someone asks if your kids want to come round for a playdate and you know that your child will have a meltdown at the end of the day because of it, to say sorry but no. If they really care about your situation then they’ll understand. Or when you’ve had visitors every weekend for a month that you have to say no to someone who wants to come visit.

Put the welfare of your family unit first. Preservation for survival. Most people will understand and if they don’t well perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to that friendship or acquaintance.

13. Faith is everything

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Some people find solace and strength of mind in exercise, some in friends and family, painting, cooking, going out drinking, watching tv or having a bath. For me, it is some of those things too, but ultimately my faith in a power and God greater then anything here on Earth gives me weight to the anchor that keeps me grounded in a life often swept with uncertainty.

Find where your anchor is and make sure you give it the time and attention it needs. Soul reviving for your frame of mind.

14. I am stronger and more resilient with every passing deployment and posting

When I first got married and moved to our first posting I was a completely different person to who I am now. In order to survive the life we live I have had to pull up my boot straps, thicken my skin, know when to battle and when to fall back, when to put myself out there and when not to, to be stronger of mind, stronger of trust and continue to be open to friendships wherever we go.

These are all still works in progress and will continue to grow and evolve.

Practise makes perfect…?! Maybe…

15. You know who your real friends are During a deployment

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When you go through a deployment, it becomes very clear, very quickly who your real friends are. They are the ones who check up on you, who send you post, who ask about your kids, ring you, text you, who come visit you and let you cry if you need to. Who will drink with you, eat junk food with you, look after your kids, wash up or cook for you. Cherish those ones, they have your back.

True friendship is like oxygen and an energy drink that is life giving and energising.

16. Though it was ten times harder then a deployment without kids, it was equally ten times BETTER

A sentence of paradoxes. We finish back where we started. It was tougher it’s true. I shouted more than I would have liked to, I was stricter more then I would have liked, there were more tears than I would have liked and more sorry’s from every party than I can count.

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The talking doubled with Little Feet B going from singular words to full sentences which was equal amounts of tiring as beautiful. With it came bickering but also more playing, more tantrums but also more sister hugs. In a single day those girls have the ability to drive me up Everest and back again more times then the Duracell bunny running with no where to go. There were days when I thought I couldn’t possible listen to another round of ‘Let it Go’ or ‘Do you want to build a snowman’. There were days where I thought I couldn’t do this, couldn’t do another day on my own with them. But when all is said and done, we have laughed and loved hard these few months too. It’s true we’ve fallen out so many times, but I’ve also fallen for these girls harder then ever. That’s what hard times do, they help you assess your life. Assess what is important and what isn’t. Assess how strong you are and what your weaknesses are.

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Conclusion

This life is not for everyone, it is truly wearying at times and can be very lonely. If you cannot adapt and evolve to the situation you find yourself in you will not survive with your wits or more importantly your mental health. The longer I am a forces wife the more I understand the sense of weight that is entwined with. There are military wives who have been doing this a really long time and they are some of the wisest women I know. Being a part of this life is hard and will regularly push you to your limits. Fearing you can’t go on but trudging on regardless. Like muscles that need tearing apart in rigorous exercise in order to be put together stronger, forces wives wear this struggle and experience as a medal of pride. Not only because of how hard our husbands work and the sacrifice they have to make from being away from their families for so long, but because we know as a collective what we do matters and that forces wives are some of the most resilient and constantly evolving ones around.

We learn. We adapt. We conquer. We survive.

And I think I have proven I have done just that.

Thanks for listening, for all the private messages I received over the course of the last 6 months. You’ll never know how much they have meant.

Here is to the the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter and wider. Here is to the next season, whatever that may involve. We’re ready for you. Let the next adventure begin.

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8 children's books that teach kindness and self-love

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This is a hard post to write. I didn't know whether to even write about it, but I think it’s an important one. Since Daddy Big Feet went back after Christmas RnR, Little Feet A has struggled. A lot. It started with nightmares - horrific ones. Then something happened at school and hysterical tears followed. Then we have had weeks of tears before school, tears during school, tears after school. We have had clinginess at home, needing more love affirmations, more cuddles, more deep conversations and more regular nought to ten tantrums.

I understand that the underlying problem is that she is missing her Daddy terribly, but as a result her confidence has plummeted dramatically. Her need for me to be with her all the time is a clear indication of this. Suddenly school which was used to adore has become scary, the days too long for missing me and the playground terrifying. Where once she used to thrive, it has become a place of unease. Being for the most part fine in the close confines of her classroom setting, she fixates on the playground.

After much gentle talks with her over the last weeks, I began to see that she was beginning to realise that we are all different. Or at least she was struggling to make sense of it. My Little Feet A thrives in smaller contexts. Since school started I’ve noticed that where people call her name on the way to school, she doesn’t know what to do with that attention. She likes having a small group of friends and becomes overwhelmed if the group gets bigger. It throws her comfort zone out of whack. And lastly, she seems to have noticed that she wants to do different things than play ‘My Little Pony’ all the time in the playground.

I became apparent after talking to her over some days that she had developed a fear of asking her friends if they wanted to play her games because one of them had said they didn’t want to play them on a couple of days on the trot. I asked her what she likes to do in the playground she said ‘exercise’. Which made me inwardly laugh out loud as she is so her father’s daughter. Whose main dream from having kids is waiting for the day he can go for runs with them. Genuinely!

Little Feet A is 4 years old and I naively thought that I’d be having a discussion about friends, friend dynamics and individuality when she was a bit older. But you see, she is very like me as well. She FEELS. She feels ALL the feels. She is so in touch with her own emotions and those of others. She’s an empath. We feed off people’s energy, and can quickly sense something is off. We have a deep empathy to people’s emotions.

It has been a tough old few weeks. Emotionally very draining. So I have done what our Little Rainbow Tree Unit always does when we need to underline a topic and find some escapism.

We create and we read.

Oh and eat cake…

So we made a DIY Dollhouse where the whole process took about a week. Then I moved on to books. Books about the meaning of kindness, the difference between unkindness and kindness and most importantly about self-love. About how we are all different, how that is ok. How being all the same would be so boring. How she was made perfectly, put on this planet to be her, no one else. Sometimes using someone else’s words when you are tripping over your own or are eager to emphasis your point I find is the most effective.

It’s been a really humbling experience. She’s cried, I’ve cried, we’ve cried together. We’ve had discussions about what courage is. She’s been a scared bear cub and I have been a fierce protective mama bear. But being protective doesn’t mean hiding them away for ever and wrapping them up in cotton wool. It means equipping them with the tools to go out into the world without you and be ok, however painful that is for you to watch. And trust me, it’s painful.

I am glad to say that this week things have been getting a little better. Yesterday she proudly told me that she didn’t cried at school. I was so proud of her and I told her just that. She knows it’s ok to cry and today she did just that when I dropped her off at school. Those emotions are there for a reason. But letting her know that I’m proud of her for not crying and letting her know that continuing to carry on and trying her best and talking about her feelings with me? That. That is courageous. If we are all honest with ourselves life is all about being courageous.

So, here are some books that have helped us. I hope a couple of them speak to you and your Little Feet too.

  1. You Are Special, by Max Lucado

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Oh this book. I have so much love for this book. When I first had Little Feet A, I got given this by another forces wife. I’d never heard of it before but it holds a special place in my heart. There was a town filled with wooden people called Wemmicks. They were made by a carpenter called Eli and he lived in his workshop on the hill overlooking their town. Eli made each Wemmick different, there were no two the same. Each Wemmick liked to hand out Stars or Dot stickers. Stars were given if a Wemmick looked very beautiful, said something funny or could do something brilliant. Whereas Dots were given out if you perhaps weren’t so pretty, had chips in your wood, said something silly or fell over.

The story follows the Wemmick Punchinello who was always covered in lots of Dots. He was always falling over or saying something silly. "He deserves lots of dots, the wooden people would agree with one another. He's not a good wooden person. After a while, Punchinello believed them. I'm not a good Wemmick, he would say." One day he met a Wemmick called Lucia, she didn’t have any Stars or Dots and any that got put on her just simply fell straight off. After talking to her she said he should go see Eli on top of the hill. So he did. During their chat he says, "Who are they to give star or dots? They're Wemmicks just like you. What they think doesn't matter, Punchinello. All that matters is what I think. And I think you are pretty special." Toward the end of their conversation Eli says to Punchinello, ‘Remember, you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.’

Eli is off course meant to represent God and the Wemmicks humans. Whether you are an Atheist, Agnostic or Believer the message remains. No one has the right to bring you down, only you can allow that hurt to fester. This is a hard lesson, one that adults regularly struggle with. Let’s teach our children then that they are perfect, just the way you are. I don’t think there is better message to teach your Little Feet, do you?

2. The Night Dragon, by Naomi Howarth

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Maud is a dragon, but doesn’t fit in with all the other night dragons. They all breathe out smoky fire that covers the land in sooty grey clouds to help bring nightfall over the world. The other dragons leave Maud out and calls him names. Maud doesn’t even think he can fly let alone blow clouds. One day after one of the night dragon’s birthdays they all fall asleep and don’t wake up to bring nightfall. With encouragement from Mouse, Maud’s only friend, he takes courage and jumps off the cliff flapping his wings. He finds he can fly and not only that when he breathes fire the most stunning multicoloured smoke and clouds come from his nostrils. Maud and Mouse spend their days filling the Earth with the most beautiful sunsets. So next time you see a sunset scattered with rainbow hues, you’ll know who has been flying over you! A stunning book about friendship and encouragement.

3. The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig

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Teaching children kindness from a young age is so important. School and the playground can be so daunting for some children and I have talked to many teachers and teaching assistants who find it really painful watching scenarios play out in front of them. For younger school children it can often be words that can have a profound lasting affect on their confidence levels. This story is about Brian, the invisible boy. He feels like he is invisible because no other children include him in their games and conversations. That is until a new boy comes to school. Brian is the first to make him feel welcome and they team up and become friends. What a wonderful book that leads to some fantastic conversations about our actions and kindness.

Being a mother of forces children who move from school to school a lot, the book really pulls on my heart strings. Kindness costs nothing. If every parent were to make a conscious effort to actively talk about how kindness can change a situation I wonder what the world would be like in 10 years time.

4. The Sleepy Songbird, by Suzanne Barton

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This is a story about how, Peep a little bird hears the Dawn Chorus and is blown away how beautiful they all sound. Peep desperately wants to join their choir but for the life of him cannot wake up in time to sing with them. Every time he tries he ends up sleeping through the time to sing or is just too tired to join in. After much anguish Peep meets a Nightingale and quickly realises the reason he can’t be part of the Dawn Chorus is because he was meant to sing at dusk and not dawn! The sweet simplicity of this book teaches the beauty of being different and that there is much beauty in how we are made.

5. Dear Girl, by Amy Krous Rosenthal Paris Rosenthal

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Written by a mother-daughter duo this book is for anyone with a daughter or daughters. Heck, even sons! It encourages your girls to look in the mirror and say out loud what they like about their looks, it tells them it’s ok to be smart, it’s ok to be thoughtful and quiet, it’s ok to just want to cry and cry. It’s about raising strong and confident daughters who know their self-worth and knowing that above all else, they can come and tell their Mummy and Daddy anything.

6. I Am Enough, Grace Byers

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A book about differences. Simply written but effective, it is about race and most importantly, the beautiful symmetry of difference and similarity. We are all different, in colour, size, looks, intelligence, speech, but we are all human and therefore all equal. Great for teaching your Little Feet about diversity, especially if you live in an area where there isn’t much racial diversity.

7. Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall

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An extremely relevant book about identity and conforming to the stereotype. Red, is a crayon. The trouble is, he isn’t very could at being Red. However hard he tries, and he does try hard, he just can’t quite seem to be Red. Everyone has an opinion (don’t they always?!) on how he could try and be better, what might help him, if only he tried harder. One day Purple, asked him if he might draw a blue sea for her purple boat. Confused at her request, Purple encourages him to just try and what do you know he is actually Blue, not Red and he is actually very good at being Blue! This book is about being true to who you were made to be.

8. You’re Here For A Reason, by Nancy Tillman

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One for anyone who feels downtrodden and at the end of their tether. For those feeling painfully lonely, for mothers and fathers who feel the weight and struggle of parenthood, for children who feel like they aren’t good enough or that their bad moods are world ending. This book is beautifully illustrated with children and animals on every double page. At the beginning of the book a ball and a kite gets lost and blown away. Instead of showing the despair on the children’s faces they shown them how the ball brings happiness to people all over the world and how the ribbons on the kite do the same. The unintended ripples of kindness spread far and wide across the world. The moral of the story, it is ok to be down, but you are here for a reason, you belong and someone is relying on you. You would be so missed. The book ends with the greatest sentence of all - You are loved.