Dear Ms. Vicki,
My husband and I are both in the Army, and we have one daughter. During each of our three deployments, my family in Texas has taken care of my daughter.
My problem is that my family doesn’t do anything that I ask them to do. First of all, we are vegetarians. I have asked my family to let my daughter adhere to a vegetarian diet. When we deploy and leave my daughter in their care, I get pictures of my daughter at family reunions and at barbecues eating ribs, pulled pork and God-knows-what else. Ms. Vicki, I don’t want an obese nine-year-old on my hands.
The second problem is that I don’t believe in cornrows for her hair. It will only break off the edges and I also think cornrows are ghetto. I don’t want my daughter’s hair breaking off and I don’t want people to assume she is ghetto.
The last thing I will mention is that I am a non-denominational Christian. All I asked is for my parents to take the time to visit some of the non-denominational churches in Houston. No, they only attend the traditional Baptist churches and I have a problem with their doctrine.
Is there any way to discuss this problem with my family to avoid it escalating into a heated argument? Do you think I should let my family keep my daughter in the future? My husband and I plan to make a career out of the Army, and I know we will be deployed again.
A Family Problem
Let me be honest, I was very appalled at “your take” on this situation. Your family has generously offered to take your daughter and you want to dictate complicated rules for them?
OK, I can understand that you want to raise your daughter as a vegetarian. That’s your right. Honestly, I’m becoming more vegetarian myself. However, you are aware that you have a meat-eating, barbecue feasting family. Plus, Texas is synonymous with barbecue and family reunions with every meat you can name cooked on a grill.
Now ... why do cornrows mean you’re ghetto? I totally disagree with you. I don’t have daughters, but if I did their hair would be done in cornrows too. Why? Because it’s convenient and quick. Your parents don’t have to worry about combing her hair every morning. Remember, your parents have a life too, and they are going out of their way to be supportive of you and your career. Everyone with cornrows doesn’t end up with hair breakage. You can still keep it moisturized daily.
Regarding church, Texas is a part of the Bible Belt. They have all types of churches on every corner. You prefer a non-denominational service and that’s OK. However, your family attends a Baptist church. Bottom line, neither one is deviant to Christian teaching, right?
Here’s the deal: You are very fortunate to have loving family who has been committed to caring for your daughter in your absence. In my opinion, you are being very ungrateful and unappreciative.
Nowhere in your letter did you mention that you paid your family for caring for your daughter. Did you provide any monetary contributions to your family to help with their mortgage, utilities, food, gas, car expenses? I’ll bet the answer is no.
Your parents and your siblings are being supportive to you and your family in a magnanimous way. I wish more servicemembers had supportive family members like you do. Please stop complaining and be more appreciative.
Ms. Vicki Tips
If you are a single servicemember with a child or you are part of a dual military couple, please keep the following Ms. Vicki Tips in mind:
1. Be grateful. If you have family who is willing to take care of your child or children while you are deployed, you are one of the lucky ones. Let your gratitude ease the way.
2. Turn in your badge. When you are overseas, you can’t be the police and patrol what the caregiver is doing. Unless it is an issue of safety (seatbelts, alcohol or drug abuse, dangerous relatives) or the law (school attendance), you are going to have to trust your relatives. Relax and don’t stress. Understand the caregiver won’t do everything like you would. When you get back, you can re-establish your family rules.
3. Discuss and negotiate. Definitely discuss your wishes about your child’s educational needs, their diet, their extracurricular activities, their social supports, etc. All of these are very important. Also understand your family or caregiver may not be able to maintain many of these things to your standard or as you would.
Remember, the choice of a caregiver is up to you. If you do not think that your family provides the kind of love and safety and guidance you want for your child, look for someone else. Figuring out arrangements for your child during deployment is part of the everlasting responsibility of single-parent servicemember and dual-career military members. Keep working until you find a good solution.
Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, is married to an active-duty Soldier and has three sons. She has a Master's of Science in Social Work from the University of Louisville, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and currently works as a therapist with military servicemembers and their families. She provides services for a wide array of concerns such as combat stress, PTSD, couples and marital problems, depression, grief and loss, stress and coping.
Ms. Vicki also writes an advice column "Dear Ms. Vicki" that appears in the Washington Times, the Fort Campbell Courier and the Heidelberg Herald Post. Ms. Vicki also hosts an internet radio show and blogs on her community site with the Washington Times. If you want to ask Ms. Vicki for advice about your military life, please email her at AskMsVicki@military-inc.com.
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