As the mother of two military kids and as a former military child myself, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the issue. That doesn’t mean I have it all figured out but it does mean that between the three of us, I’ve experienced a wide variety of the joys and tears that military kids face on a daily basis.
Just in case you didn’t know this – military kids rock. They are by far some of the bravest people I know. They say goodbye to parents when they go to war, when they leave for training, when they have temporary duty in a faraway place, when they move ahead of the family to a new assignment or when the the new assignment doesn’t allow any family at all. They intimately understand the meaning of the word separation.
Think about that. When was the last time you spent time away from your family? A weekend away can be a nice break. A week, a breather. A month, it’s getting tough. Months on end, it’s no piece of cake. Military families face these separations repeatedly throughout a child’s lifetime. For many kids, separations help teach resilience, patience, and self-reliance and kids can feel pride in their abilities to not only survive a separation but to thrive. There is a down side – kids can feel abandoned, alone, angry, and frustrated. They can be depressed one day and elated the next. They can actually feel the good and the bad at the same time. And if their parent at home is feeling all these as well… just imagine.
When the family is together, it feels like bonus points. But then kids deal with moving which include new homes, new schools, new teachers, new friends, new just about everything every couple of years. My own kids have moved three times in the last three years and we’re looking at move number four this summer. They handle it with a grace much better than my own. They are always excited about the next adventure and they help keep me on my best behavior. When I feel like complaining because we can’t plan our pack-out date because we don’t have our orders, I take a deep breathe. My kids don’t need to hear my complaints about the system – they know them all to well. Instead, we focus on what we can control, even if it’s only a plan to eat pancakes for dinner.
If you don’t know a military kid, I highly recommend going out of your way to meet one. Seriously. We know we move a lot and we aren’t in any one spot for very long. That can be tough for some civilians to wrap their heads around. I figure that’s why we don’t often make friends in the civilian community – people need time to get to know us and time is what we often don’t have. A relationship with a military family is necessarily speeded up – we do it all the time with each other. When we move on base, the first neighborhood potluck is within a week or so, the kids are best friends with a month or two, and after a year, there are tears when we have to say goodbye. But we don’t regret making those friends at all. In fact, they’re the friends that keep us going.
The kids get it. The video below was made by friends of friends. We knew our friends at one base and cried our hearts out when we had to part. They went to a one year assignment in Rhode Island while we departed for a 15 month assignment to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Our kids thought they would never find best friends again. Yet, a year later, a young man made this video showing that is exactly what military kids do: