April is the Month of the Military Child. I know, April is the month of a lot of things. But our three kids are one of those things. So, a little post in their honor.
I grew up in the same house my mother grew up in. My maternal grandparents lived downstairs and our family lived upstairs. My dad’s parents lived about five minutes away. We spent holidays, birthdays, and other days together. I remember family volleyball games and watermelon seed spitting contests off Grandpa’s porch. I had a favorite tree that I could sit in and read. It happened to also be first base for kickball games. My husband’s family got together for all those things too. He grew up having Sunday dinners with all his cousins. Family vacations were road trips to visit relatives. He learned to hunt not only with his dads, but his uncles too. We came from extended families, not military families.
Our kids have a different experience. They are military kids. My husband is in the Navy and although he spent almost a decade in one location, we’ve moved five times since our children were born. My daughter was just counting all the pen-pals she’s acquired around the country. And that’s hard. It’s hard when my son, who doesn’t make friends so easily tells me twice in as many months that he’s connected with someone in our homeschool group, only to have to tell him that they’re PCSing soon. (PCS means Permanent Change of Station and boils down to moving to, as we say, meet the needs of the Navy. And we say that with a mix of pride and annoyance.) Leaving friends and having to make new ones…it’s hard.
But you know the other goodbyes that are even harder sometimes? The ones at the airport when you drop Grandma and Grandpa off after a week’s visit. The ones as you pull out of the driveway knowing you’re likely not going to see someone for another three years, until the next PCS. The hellos are rough too. It’s not easy for the kids to walk into a family Thanksgiving with 50 people they’ve met once…when they were only months old. Our kids are military kids, who haven’t been raised by the extended families.
It makes me sad sometimes. I learned a lot of life lessons alongside my cousins. My kids have only seen their cousins a handful of times. It’s a different life.
But, then I take a deep, cleansing breath. I’m a fan of those. In……….and out…….
And I realize that they have they’re own extended family. Just tonight they asked something about Uncle Brandon – he’s not related. Friends are coming for dinner tomorrow night. We go camping with friends and celebrate holidays with friends. Our kids have people to invite to birthday parties and they do have pen-pals – and that’s a good thing! It means they’ve made friends. They have connections and relationships all over the country.
And beyond that, they’ve traveled all over the country. Our kids have logged over 17,000 miles on the road. And that’s not counting side trips. They have seen both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. They’ve seen the geography of the country not in books, but out the window and under their feet. They’ve been to Vegas and the Grand Canyon. They’ve been to Fort Niagara, Fort Worden, and Castillo de San Marcos – the oldest masonry fort in the continental US. Most of these experiences are my first time too…right along side of them.
Being a military kid is a different life.
And you know what? Different doesn’t mean better or worse. There are times when life is hard and it doesn’t matter how you’re raised, where your parents work, or any of that. Sometimes life is hard. Fact. But sometimes it’s incredible or exciting or wonderful or calm or boring or thrilling. Also facts.
Yes, military children probably say goodbye to more significant people before age 18 than most people do in a lifetime. That means they’ve had the opportunity to meet more significant people too.
When I need to take that deep, cleansing breath, because something’s got me down, it usually brings a change of perspective that allows me to see the situation from a different place. And sometimes a seeing things from a different place can change how you feel about life.
Its not always easy. It doesn’t always seem fair. But this life that we’re giving our kids – it’s a good one. They didn’t show you all the other pictures surrounding the one in the meme.
There are Nerf gun wars in empty houses that movers have packed out. There are farewell parties where kids get to see the friends that become their families celebrate them. There are running hugs when they see a friend again when a PCS brings them back together. There is so much more.
Sometimes military kids need a hug. Sometimes they need a high-five!