Stoic mother holds steady for son about to be deployed

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DEAR ABBY: Since the moment my oldest son, “Ryan,” enlisted in the U.S. Army, our family has been concerned he would be deployed. Although Ryan graduated from high school near the top of his class and had prepared for university, his plans were thwarted when deployment orders came to face off with ISIS in a combat engineer role. He leaves soon for the Middle East.

Abby, I need your insight in understanding why I am not falling apart. My other children are, my relatives are, and people I speak to are stunned that I’m holding it together. I try to explain that I support my son and must be strong for my family, but am I in denial? Everyone else is falling apart while I, who adore him and can’t envision a life without him, seem to be holding steady.

What’s going on with me? Am I a flawed mother? I feel like I’m disappointing others who would prefer to see a soldier’s mother grieve and agonize over her son’s departure, anticipating the worst. Your thoughts are most welcome. — BAFFLED IN THE SOUTH

DEAR BAFFLED: You are not “flawed.” Not everyone handles emotionally charged situations in the same way. While you may be numb with shock, you may also be calm, stoic and not show your feelings openly. It’s also possible that you may be “postponing” any negative emotions until if and when it’s necessary to experience them. My reaction is that no one should judge you — least of all yourself right now.

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DEAR ABBY: I’m the father of a beautiful, intelligent 9-year-old daughter I’ll call Stella. About three years ago, her mother married a man from an affluent family and moved three hours away. In order to be closer to Stella, I moved there as well.

I have been divorced for six years now, and my relationship with my daughter has not improved during that time. I spend every Thursday afternoon with her and every other weekend. She recently joined a basketball team, and I go to her practices and games.

My biggest concern — and pain — is, whenever Stella is with me she cries for her mother. It hurts, because I have tried hard to foster a relationship with my daughter and have been unable to. I took her to Disney World and she spent half the time crying. I ask myself if I am only hurting her or if I should continue to see her. Can you give me some advice? — DISAPPOINTED DADDY IN TEXAS

DEAR DISAPPOINTED DADDY: Have you talked to Stella’s mother and asked her what’s going on with your daughter? By age 9 she’s a little old for separation anxiety. Not knowing everyone involved, my first reaction is to wonder if there has been parental alienation happening.

My second is to suggest that you enlist the help of a licensed family therapist to find out why Stella acts this way every time she’s alone with you. If the problem is that she is immature, ride things out. If it’s something more, then it’s important you get to the bottom of it.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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