August 31, 2006

'Flat Daddy' Cutouts For National Guard Families

flat_daddy_bosglobe.jpg

Wow. I-- wow.

Soldiers in Maine's National Guard who've been deployed to Iraq keep in regular, almost constant touch with their families through email, satellite phones, and even video conferencing.

On top of that, their families receive life-sized photo cutouts on foamcore, just to keep around the house. They're called "Flat Daddies" and "Flat Mommies," and they're a huge success:

The Flat Daddies ride in cars, sit at the dinner table, visit the dentist, and even are brought to confession, according to their significant others on the home front.

"I prop him up in a chair, or sometimes put him on the couch and cover him up with a blanket," said Kay Judkins of Caribou, whose husband, Jim, is a minesweeper mechanic in Afghanistan. "The cat will curl up on the blanket, and it looks kind of weird. I've tricked several people by that. They think he's home again."

When the kid was 5 months old, my wife first went to Japan a couple of weeks ahead of the kid and I. We [especially she] worried that the kid might not recognize her after a while, so we recorded a little video of them reading My First Book of Sushi together. I played it for the kid every day, and it seemed to work, although we had to stop the tape before take 2, when the video kid started fidgeting and crying; watching herself cry inevitably made the kid cry. Go figure.

Anyway, I think this is an incredible, if admittedly bizarre solution for any parent who has to be away from his kid for a prolonged period. And besides, you get to use the HOV lane, too.

Guard families cope in two dimensions [boston.com via boingboing]
Make your own life-sized photo cutout. You could do waist-up for around $100. Full-body is closer to $200. [try here or here, or here, via yahoo]

8 Comments

When my wife and daughter (8 months old at the time) when to Japan a month ahead of me last year, we did video chat every day... it was a resounding success; the kid wasn't speaking much at that point, but she pointed at the computer window and said "Dada!" every time and got up on my wife's lap whenever we started.

It also had the added bonus of keeping me from getting jetlag, as I started staying up late to catch them in the evening Japan time then sleeping from like 6am-1pm PST for the last couple weeks...

I so wanted to blog about this, but I wasn't sure how to make my feelings known without anyone misinterpreting them.

I think anything that helps kids cope with their parent's being in Iraq or Afganistan is great. I really feel sorry for these kids.

But there was one woman quoted in one of the articles about this that took her husband's cutout to work with her at the dentist's office.

As you said... wow.

Wouldn't the money be better be spent on video chats. This just seems silly.

I wonder if they're also helping cope in the HOV lane? Hey! I'm just askin'........

$100-$200? I did this for a play with cardboard and an inkjet printer for something on the order of $5. Just found out the other day that the prototype is still living on, nearly 5 years later. I have no clue where the full-size model ran off to.

Oh, for those interested. Use the magic lasso in the Gimp to essentially "cut out" your person from the background. Then go into the Image Size and flip from pixels to inches. Blow up your image to a page size of somewhere around your loved ones height (and width). Then hit the print button.
Take out your exacto knife and start cutting out all those pages (and removing the extra borders). Then glue all the pieces to a piece of cardboard. Trim off the extra cardboard and you're done! You too can be a used car salesman!

This is just too friggin weird for words. Are the creators of flat daddy and flat mommy going to offer free updated versions with pieces of the faces missing or missing limbs and such to reflect injuries that may occur subsequent to acquiring the original flat daddy? How are the children going to respond when they greet their disfigured parent after having oogled over a smiling and physically intact portrait of their parent for months prior to their return home (if they return home)?

Sickened but Curious
San Diego, CA

[yes, I'd like to see what happens when they come home, too. the sooner and more intact the better. -ed.]

You should really be ashamed of yourself.

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