Monday, March 15, 2010

Supporting Our Soldiers' Families

Prior to writing Band of Sisters, I watched a close friend go through her husband's deployment. We lived just around the corner from one another, and my youngest was the perfect age to play with her children.

I was more than happy to fill in as a last-minute babysitter or lend my husband to fix a clogged garbage disposal or whatever. A couple of times, she used me as a listening ear, even though, much as I tried, I knew that deep down, I didn't (and couldn't) really have a clue what she was going through without facing a deployment personally.

I like to think I was a little bit of a support to her, but the reality is, I felt pretty helpless and didn't know if there was anything I could really do to help her beyond being an on-call babysitter and having our family pray for hers.

Her deployment experience led me to researching the topic more fully and talking to a number of military wives, and, ultimately, I felt compelled to write a novel about the topic.

In the process, I found that many people (both those who personally know a military family and those who don't) wish for something specific they could do to help. They just don't know what.

Then I landed on a blog that changed things. Eureka! Here was something concrete, something anyone could do that was simple in action but big on impact.

The Free Flat Daddy® Project
Flat Daddies (or Flat Mommies) are life-size photographs of the deployed parent. In a small but powerful way, a Flat Daddy can help ease the pain of the parent's absence.

Children take their Flat Daddy to soccer games, kindergarten graduation, even trick-or-treating.

Little girls have tea parties with "Dad."

Boys can push "Dad" in a wagon and otherwise "play" with him. Young children can kiss him good night.

The blog I first discovered the concept on is A Year with Flat Daddy, where an LDS woman nicknamed Mo recorded their family's journey with "FJ" (Flat Jared) while "RJ" (Real Jared) was in Iraq.

Their experience in Mo's own words:

Flat Daddies can really provide a strange sense of comfort in some situations and sometimes a little bit of comfort is enough to get through another day. I know that it was especially helpful for our daughter, who was very young when Jared left.

She didn't shy away from him in the least when he came home and scooped her up. And "Daddy" was even her first word! Our oldest son has some special needs and doesn't adjust well to change, so the chance to have his "Dad" with him as usual helped ease his stress a bit.

And I'll admit that on at least one occasion I put my arms around Flat Jared's neck and cried my eyes out. It was more comforting than crying in a pillow, to be honest.

Carrying a Flat Daddy with you really does bring out the best in people. I experienced such gratitude and kindness from complete strangers, people who wanted to connect with us and really be a part of our family's little adventure.

I am so grateful for Flat Daddies. I had heard of the concept before, but the cost is prohibitively high if you try to make one yourself at a local copy shop. Having a place that makes it easy and affordable—or free for a family going through a deployment—is a great blessing.

The Flat Daddy® concept is the brainchild of Elaine Dumler, who originally came up with it as one of many ideas for military families in her book, I'm Already Home.

The idea took off, and through her efforts, she became known as the "Flat Daddy Lady" and got an award from ABC for her work supporting military families. She's since written a second volume with even more great ideas, I'm Already Home . . . Again. You can buy her books from her website (above).

I'm now working with Elaine to help get as many Flat Daddies as possible into the hands of families who could benefit from them.

In the past, donors had two options:
1) Buy a Flat Daddy® for a family they know.
2) Buy a Flat Daddy® for an anonymous family.

Those options are still available.

But having them as the only options presented a slight problem: Not everyone who wants to help can pay out the cost of making and shipping a Flat Daddy. They cost nearly fifty dollars a pop.

Now there's a THIRD option:
Anyone can now donate to the Flat Daddy Project in any dollar amount they choose. That money goes toward the creation of future Flat Daddies.

If you can afford to go without a fast-food lunch once this week and donate five dollars, great! If you can donate ten or twenty dollars (or more!) on another day, even better! Whatever you can give will add up.

Finally: something you can do, more than once, even, to support military families, and it won't break the bank.

To donate, visit the Flat Daddy® page on my website and follow the directions.

That page also shows pictures of Mo's family with Flat Jared and features a clip from their local news about their experience.

Be sure to drop by; it's worth checking out.

NOTE: To buy a Flat Daddy® for a family you know, be sure to get their e-mail address. As you check out, you'll be prompted to enter the e-mail address. After your payment is cleared, the family will be sent a code they'll use to claim their Flat Daddy® at no cost to them.


Kristina P. said...

I have never heard of this! What a cool idea. I think I might just have to donate. Maybe after all the old people are Snuggiefied. :)

Lara Neves said...

This is very cool. You rock for doing this.

Rebecca Irvine said...

What a wonderful project. Thanks for sharing this information.

Rebecca Blevins said...

What a great idea! Thank you for posting about this.

Autumn said...


Mom's in the kitchen! said...

Oh, how you touched my heart this morning! This is a wonderful idea!

Shelly said...

I just found your blog from the scrapbox giveaway link and I couldn't be happier to see this post about flat daddies. I am an Army wife. On my husband's second deployment we hung a flat daddy on our living room wall. My husband left when our son was just under 5 months old and didn't see him again until he was over 13 months old. During that deployment my son didn't get to see many people and became quite shy. He was even shy with his grandparents when they would come to visit. However, the day my husband returned was an a amazing day that I will always remember. When my son saw his real Daddy, he came right up to him with a big smile and gave him a hug. This action was not something I would have expected from my son since he was so shy. He bonded right away with his Daddy. I attribute his reaction and the ease of their reintegration to the Flat Daddy we had hanging on the wall. I think that seeing his Daddy on the wall every day really made a difference. As my husband prepared to deploy again, we have already talked about how we will be putting another flat daddy on the wall for both of our sons to see and talk to. Thank you for making everyone aware of such a great concept for the military families.

And by the way, being there for your friend going through a deployment was a giant help I am sure. I would love to have a friend like that around while my husband is gone. A friendship like that is not taken for granted by military spouses. While it may have felt like you couldn't do much, you did a lot and I am sure that made a difficult time that much easier.

Patrick said...

Cool idea! The creativity of some people amaze me!

And, I am sure you were a help and support to our mutual friend during her hubby's deployment. Just having a compassionate and willing nurturer nearby in those rough moments I am sure was a blessing and strength.

Meggen said...

Oops! That comment above was from me! Didn't realize the hubby was logged in! Sorry!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I am just in love with this idea. What a gift to the families of those deployed. I can think of a myriad of ways this would help ease things during that time of separation.

Stephanie said...

Such a wonderful idea. I can't even imagine the heartache of deployment...and how hard it must be for children.

Stephanie said...

Such a wonderful idea. I can't even imagine the heartache of deployment...and how hard it must be for children.


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