Editor's note: The following is an opinion piece. The writer is not employed by Military Times and the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Military Times or its editorial staff.
"Don't be mad, but I received notice to deploy … and I have to leave in four weeks."
These were the exact words Chris said, and within four weeks, he kissed his three leading ladies goodbye.
We have endured multiple deployments as Team Cordova, survived and became stronger after each one. Dwell time is up, and it's time to deploy again – sound familiar? The new catch: Since last time, our family expanded from two to four.
Was I overwhelmed? Yes. Did I want to cry? Absolutely. Did I think we would be OK? I did not have an answer.
My uncertainty spun me into family readiness deployment mode. Fear slowly crept in as I noticed our girls' emotions have peaked as part of our latest move, coupled with the dread of meeting new friends, plus the obvious – it would be my first time flying solo for so long with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old (who turned 5 in November).
Then, my head cleared. We have four hearts to bind and mend as needed, and we desperately needed both and not a pity party. Ready, set, go!
First, we addressed our daughters' emotions. Saying goodbye to their friends broke their tiny hearts, and moving to a new place with no friends made it worse. Their play dates dwindled from two a week to zero.
Listening and acknowledging their feelings proved key to understanding their needs, and I discovered I needed to hustle – hustle! – to find new friends so they could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
As hilarious as it sounds, I hustled at Little Dragons karate and soccer practice to find mommy friends. We all dread rebuilding a social network every two or three years, and it's an entirely new process with children's friends factoring into the equation, but nothing is more important than mending the hearts of your children.
Second, we took advantage of all resources provided by the Army and post. Child, Youth and School Services Deployment Support Services, for instance, offers 16 free hours of child care per child per month with a reduced rate of $2 an hour for hourly care, and up to $300 for SKIES (Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills) classes per child per deployment. Grants are awarded to post gift shops and provide free deployment services such as canvas paintings for your little ones to enjoy and explore a new passion.
The program is truly a hidden gem in our military community and has saved my sanity weekly, allowing me the freedom to nourish my health – physically, mentally and emotionally.
Lastly, we document daily memories with a life-size "Daddy Board." Chris and I were both uncertain how our girls would react during deployment and reintegration: Would they remember Dad? Would depression lie on their shoulders? Would they still call him "Daddy" when he returned? Our hearts were filled with numerous unanswered questions, and I wanted Chris to continue to be in their daily activities.
I found the solution in a 4-foot Daddy Board that hilariously accompanies us everywhere – the gym, dentist, pre-kindergarten holiday festivities, lounging around the house and the park, to name a few locations. I take pictures daily with Daddy Board and post them on social media (marked private, of course!) so family and friends get a glimpse of our family in action.
The Cordova children, and a cutout of Maj. Chris Cordova, celebrate the holidays.
Photo Credit: Maria Cordova
Our girls love to say "good morning" and "good night, Daddy," and they enjoy taking Daddy Board on every adventure and making new memories despite deployment. Daddy Board made an appearance at President George W. Bush's ranch, and on our annual Christmas card.
Will this deployment be challenging? Without a doubt. Will I have days that I want to give up? Certainly, and we foresee many of these days, but we will work through it. I don't expect this deployment to be easy, but when you prepare not just yourself, but your family, you will see more sunshine and rainbows.
Our situation is not unique. This story is told daily across our military. It speaks to the resilience and strength of the military family.
Maria Cordova is an Army wife, Navy brat, mom of two beautiful girls, member of Team Red, White and Blue, and author of "The ABCs of the Army," a children's book available at Amazon.com. She's online at MariaCordova.com.