Echo Books, 2017
32pp., pbk., RRP $A24.95
Sometimes when you’re gone I wonder why your job seems more important to you…than me.
Sometimes when you’re gone I get upset and angry when you miss things that are important to me.
Sometimes I look at what you do and I realise that you don’t want to leave… but by making our lives harder, you are making other people’s lives better.
But even with that understanding, it doesn’t make the life of a child with a parent in the Defence Forces or any other profession which necessitates prolonged absences any easier.
This is poignant true story based on the 16 year-old author’s own experiences of being a child in a military family grappling with the absence of a loved parent. It was her way of telling her dad about her feelings while he was away and her confusion when he came home as the family had to adjust to another routine. In an interview with the Canberra Times she says, “When I showed it to Dad, it wasn’t really anything we had discussed before … it was quite a shock to him…
But Jess didn’t just write this book for her dad, she wrote it for all children of Defence families and in a letter to them she tries to reassure them that their feelings are common and normal,they are not alone and even providing a page for them to write their own ending to the sentence, Sometimes when you’re gone…
Many of us have taught many children from military families who have struggled with having a parent deployed and there has been an expectation that they will “soldier on” and manage the separation and the emotions that go with it. But this book has a wider application than just military families – many of our students will have parents away, either permanently or temporarily – and in sensitive hands this could be the perfect opportunity to support them by getting them to open up about their feelings; to help them understand that they are not alone and it’s normal to feel resentful at times and they don’t have to feel guilty; to help them help their parents understand the impact of the separation because often parents are so busy being adults that they forget what it’s like to be a bewildered kid.
This is one for all teachers, not just counsellors, and deserves a wide audience among our profession – it has the power to change lives.