Soon by Jessica Love
Echo Books, 2015. ISBN 9780994232397
My dad is leaving soon.
He is going to another country to help keep other families safe.
Soon is coming too fast . . .
It is Christmas today.
My dad is still gone. I am sad. Christmas feels strange without him . . . but soon is getting closer.
Time is such an abstract concept for young children to grasp that adults usually resort to the seemingly innocuous "soon" when asked, "How long till . . . ?"
But soon can seem to be a long time when you're young, seemingly meaning "forever" when it stretches over birthdays, Christmas and Easter, and almost touches "Never!" When creator Jess Love's dad was deployed overseas with the Australian Defence Forces, she became one of many children, including my own grandchildren, who measured the concept of "soon" in special days, events and activities missed. Even letters, emails and phone calls become bittersweet because while it is great to catch up, it just makes the pain of missing even more acute and "soon" seems just as far away as it ever was. Even knowing the absence is because someone else is being helped doesn't really register with littlies because they want their daddy or mummy there to help them.
The predecessor to Sometimes by young author Jessica has articulated and illustrated the innermost feelings of any child missing a loved one who is absent for whatever reason, not just overseas deployment. While the adults in their lives can understand calendars and do mental countdowns and fill their days, young children have to be satisfied with "soon" and it can be confusing. Is it a long time, getting closer, almost here, or taking too long? And for some it can mean feeling bereft or even abandoned.
This is an important book for parents to know about so they can understand that "soon" isn't enough in times of extended absence; that while their child might seem to understand time it can be confusing and there needs to be some sort of mechanism that help them have a picture of what "soon" means such as a calendar to cross off the days or the number of sleeps left; something that helps them realise that "soon" will come and it will happen.
For the children of those in the Defence Forces or other professions that entail long absences, it is important for them to know that their feelings are real, shared and validated and that "soon" will come eventually. While crossing dates off a calendar might seem pointless and endless, perhaps instead of marking special things missed, they can set themselves a goal to achieve before "soon" happens. Riding their bike, playing a tricky tune on the piano, knitting a jumper, achieving the next level in a sport - whatever is their passion can become their driving force for making "soon" hurry up. And even though it seems that it is dragging its feet, it eventually does arrive.
As teachers there is much that we can do to acknowledge the anxiety, help the understanding of time by making the countdown the kickstart for a series of lessons about how humans have measured time over millennia and make "soon" become "now".
Another important addition to our mindfulness toolboxes and collections.