...First off, Dr. Franco-Kerns insisted that I just call her "M" -- which was great because I knew it would take me way less time to type "M" than to type "Dr. Franco-Kerns" when I wrote up her responses. I liked her already.

I explained to her what a Must-Have Parent is and I let her know that, while not everyone who reads this column is in a military family, many of my readers are indeed fluent in acronym.

I told her that deployments, other work trips and the unpredictability that comes when you're married to someone with a boss as demanding as Uncle Sam can leave the primary parents feeling a lot like a single parents. I also explained that many of my readers, like myself, live far from extended family members and old friends.

M said she absolutely understood and then went on to tell me that she wasn't just a licensed marriage and family therapist with a doctoral degree who teaches counseling classes, she was also a woman who had raised her own daughter from age 7 until 21 as a single mom after her first husband died. In other words, she wasn't just talking the talk, she had walked the walk.

With all of that established, we jumped into the interview. We talked about a lot of things, including her specific suggestions for Must-Have Parents.

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