When Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Padgy Soltis experienced her first separation from her son, Michael, in 2016, he was only 8 months old. Working away from him for two months at such a young age was incredibly difficult for the new mom. In her downtime, she poured her emotions into writing a poem about the separation, a reminder for herself and her young son that they would soon be reunited.
The poem has now become a children’s picture book that was released in April during Month of the Military Child. “I Will Come Back” reassures military kids and their caregivers that separations – whether they be for deployments, work trips, or evenings with a babysitter – are temporary, and that the bond of love families share cannot be broken by distance.
After that first trip, Soltis also completed a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan while her son was small.
“The hardest part was feeling like I was missing out on such an important time in his life,” Soltis said of that deployment. “My son turned 3 when I was deployed and it hurt more than I thought to be away on his birthday.”
Coming home again was also difficult, as her son readjusted and they rebuilt their connection. Soltis credits technology like FaceTime and USO recordings of her reading bedtime stories with keeping their bond strong through the separations.
“Knowing that my husband was taking care of our son,” she says, also made it easier.
In their dual military family, both parents have deployed at different times.
“Children are a lot stronger and resilient than we think,” Soltis said. “Being a dual military family has been tough, but my son hasn’t missed a beat.”
“I Will Come Back,” available for sale now, is a bilingual picture book told through rhythmic language and beautifully illustrated. Each page showcases the bond between child and parent through simple connections like jumping in puddles or bedtime pillow fights.
“I wanted to incorporate things that would resonate not only with my child but also with children around the world,” Soltis said.
Telling the story in both English and Spanish was also important to her.
“I was raised bilingually and it is important to me to pass down the language of my family to my children,” she said. “Books have been such a great resource on our bilingual journey and we simply need more of them out in the world.”
Most of all, Soltis hopes “I Will Come Back” serves as a reminder for kids, and their parents, that their bonds can withstand time apart.
“I hope my book helps families (especially children) cope with periods of separation: whether it is a couple of hours, a week, or months,” Soltis said. “Families will benefit by reading this book to children before their departure and during their time away.”