The XX Factor

No Surprises, Please

On Sunday, Lifetime television had the premiere of its new reality show, Coming Home , in which a deployed military father or mother is filmed returning home to the surprise of the children. I feel uncomfortable criticizing members of the armed services. I’m in awe of their bravery and sacrifice, and I deeply admire their family members who call on incredible strength of character to get through the separation. But about these surprise reunions I want to shout, “Please don’t do this!” I hope the military command reviews this practice, which is usually sprung on the child in a public place, and suggests this is a very bad idea.

The children of service members live every day with the fear that something terrible is going to happen to their mother or father. They must have a mortal dread of surprise visits, of a person in uniform appearing on their door to deliver bad news. What these kids need most of all is as much information and assurance as they can get. They should be able to prepare themselves for a parent’s return, and that return should be private. I’ve seen a “surprise” clip and yes, I cried. How can you not in the face of the overwhelming emotion of these kids? But more than that, I felt queasy knowing I was a voyeur intruding on the most intense experience of this child’s life.  There are surprises that are fine-a new game console, possibly a puppy.  What’s not fine is making a surprise of mom or dad coming back from war.