Welcome to April!
Suddenly there seem to be a million things I’d like to write about. There’s my husband: Mustache March has ended! He was selected for promotion to major! He had a wonderful time in Belgium with friends (and bought me the hands-down-most-delicious chocolates on the planet)!
There’s life in England: The weather has been AMAZING! I went to London’s Borough Market with friends and saw the biggest English muffins EVER! My creative writing class has ended. (No exclamation point for that one.)
There’s life with my 16-month-old: He discovered how to remove his diaper/how gross poo is during a very messy naptime this week! He knows how to move chairs to climb onto the table! He has his first wagon!
All of these things are part of our settled-for-now life as an overseas military family. The regular stress of his job, the magic of springtime, the wonder of a growing child. It could be anyone’s life.
The thing is, in the coming years, I expect there to be much more of the not-so-settled stuff to deal with. And I expect it to be hard sometimes.
For example, the first evening my husband was in Belgium, my son pointed to the window and asked “Daa?” every time a car passed our tiny sliver of a house. He did it the next day, and the next. Then his daddy came home. It’s just a matter of time, though, until he asks for Daddy and it’s months before he’ll come home. I feel so unprepared for dealing with it – he couldn’t talk the last time.
April is the Month of the Military Child. There are an estimated 1.8 million American children like mine, with parents in the military. But I didn’t grow up with as much as a thought of the military. There were no installations nearby, no one in my immediate family was involved. I certainly never expected to marry into it. As such, I’m a bit terrified of raising a military child of my own.
I want nothing more than to give my child the confidence and adaptability to thrive everywhere he goes. But my imagination runs wild [no thanks to Roald Dahl’s “The Swan”]. Our boy is going to be a wee one (he JUST broke 20 pounds, huzzah!), we’re Jewish, and his parents are bona fide nerds. How do I coach him through the transitions, in places that we wouldn’t voluntarily choose to live, when he’s almost always going to be in some way different? Or through the big things in life that will happen even if his dad is deployed?
(Sounds like Mom needs some serious coaching herself, huh?)
Then there are the things I haven’t thought of. I recently read this article that explains how the question “where are you from?” stumps military kids. I’m from Indiana. I lived on the same plot of land until I was 18, which is where my family lives and has lived for generations. That’s where I go when I go home.
It never occurred to me that my kid isn’t going to have the place where he grew up to go back to. And I’m only now starting to recover from the truth that he won’t live down the lane from Grandma, spend his Saturdays with Gramps, know all of his great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins because he sees them all the time.
He’ll say he’s from Everywhere. And sometimes Dad won’t be at the birthday party, or award ceremony, or soccer game, or recital. That’s just how it is for us.
There are a variety of resources available to military families for coping with deployments, and links to those are at the end of the post. But, just as with our poop-stravaganza this week, the challenges of parenting a military child are probably easier to address with experience. No literature can prepare you for what it will actually be like.
I’d love to hear your stories – what have you learned as the parent of a military child?
In this moment, when all I can do is imagine a time that isn’t so fun and wonderful as right now (tiny washer/dryer situation excluded), what I can tell you is that the best thing you can do to support a military child is to let him or her know how grateful or proud you are of their parent who’s serving. To the kid, Dad (or Mom!) is aces. And you saying so just confirms it.
It also can’t hurt to show a little love for the parent who’s left behind during a deployment. Hearing a “thanks” (or getting a number for a great babysitter who can drive!) goes a long way when it seems like there will never come time for a break. It’s nice to feel like what we endure isn’t in vain.
Then again, sometimes we have fantastic weeks like this past one and kind of forget why we’re in this place anyway.
Interested in sending a message of thanks to a military family? Visit The White House’s Joining Forces website.
Here are some of the resources available to military families coping with deployment:
- Sesame Street Talk, Listen, Connect
- Military Families Near & Far
- Operation Military Kids: Speak Out for Military Kids
- Military KidsConnect
And here are some resources for military families that cover a variety of topics that concern us: