Being an involved dad is tough enough when you can see your kids every day. So just think about how hard it is if you're in the military, and you're 8 thousand miles away, and 12 hours of time difference. It can be done though. It is possible, and I've seen this in a lot of the military fathers I've worked with have been able to maintain strong relationships with their kids while they're gone. A lot of it has to do with the set-up. Before you go, you need to have some conversations with the kids about what's going to be happening, and where you're going to be going. You can have wonderful talks with your kids about where you're going to be going if you're able to tell them. Find that on the map. Tell them what's going on. What do people eat there? What do people drink there? What are the activities that kids do? One really fun thing is to have two different clocks. You can have one that set for the time where they are, and one that's set for the time where you're going to be. So that when they're having dinner, you can ask your partner to get involved with this, and say, "I wonder what Dad's doing at this point?" It could be a dinner. It could be a breakfast. It could be anytime. Just so that they have a sense of what's going on with them. It's also important for the kids to send you - and this is going to happen through your partner probably - all sorts of things, and everything. When you want more physical objects than actual emails, because there's nothing like holding a piece of paper with a muddy hand print on it, you're going to want to carry that with you more than some email that you print out.
So find out what's going on in their lives. Understand what's happening. If you know that your daughter has got a piano recital, send a telegram. Do something so that you can communicate with her, and so that you can continue the relationships. Technology is so wonderful for some people. Not everybody has this, but you can call. Some people are able to call everyday. Some people are able to Skype. I've heard wonderful stories about guys who were 8 thousand miles away, and they were able to, actually, be at the birth of a child, be in "because of Skype. Or they were able to attend the parent-teacher conference. So you can do it. But it's going to require some set-up in advance. You really have to have conversations with your partner about what's going to happen. You need to find out before you go, what's going to be possible. Then, I think the most important thing of all though is before you leave the house, you've got to set your expectations. That if you walk out and say, "I'm gonna call you everyday," and you weren't able to call every day, you're going to have a bunch of people sitting at home, frightened out of their minds, that something has happened to you. If you say something more on the lines of, "I'll contact you as often as I possibly can, or I'll let you know what's going on." That's going to be a lot better.