April is the month of the military child. It’s a time to recognize military children for the sacrifices they make and the challenges they overcome.
Being a military family affects every aspect of your life. And while Nick and I made a very conscious decision to live this way, my daughter has no say. We thought long and hard about whether or not we wanted to raise our kids in the military when we were deciding if he should stay in. Long before she was born, we decided we would raise her as a military child. She has no say in this.
Between deployments, moving, being the new kid in school, being away from family, saying goodbye to friends and making new ones, military kids go through so much from the moment they are born. Sometimes they are even born while their other parent is away on deployment and don’t meet them until they are several months old.
I don’t want to generalize, but the military kids I know are so strong and resilient. I’ve watched them wave goodbye to their parents on the pier and rush into their arms to welcome them home.
My daughter won’t spend her entire childhood as a military child. She will be 7 or so when Nick retires and we, hopefully, settle down somewhere for good.
Still, before she was 18 months old, she moved twice. Because we live far from family and friends, during the pandemic she hasn’t gotten a chance to bond with her grandparents and aunts and uncles.
I watched her say goodbye to the house she knew inside and out, to the room that was her safe space. I felt so guilty that she could not understand what was happening. I watched her move across the country in a trailer. And I watched her run around the new house that I declared was her new home, the room that was hers. It didn’t take her long to adapt and to be screaming “home sweet home!” whenever we would come back from our walks. I saw her resilience and it made me feel equal parts guilty and proud. Somewhere, this experience is imprinted on her.
There are a lot of things that I hope being a military child does for my daughter. I hope that she does live lots of different places and meets lots of new people, even if that means having lots of tearful see-you-laters. For me, living different places and meeting so many different kinds of people has made me a much more open-hearted person. I hope it does the same for her.
I hope being a military kid makes her empathetic, adaptable, and able to get along with lots of different people.
I hope that seeing so many different places will help her figure out who she is, what she wants out of life, where she wants to make a life for herself. I hope it helps her figure out the kind of place she wants to live – and the kinds she doesn’t. I hope she learns that home is more about a feeling, about people, than a place.
I hope that moving to new places, starting all over, and having to make new friends makes her brave. It hope it makes her instinctively reach out to the new kids and the kids who are left out. I hope it makes her think of others. I hope it makes her kind.
I hope being a military child teaches her to be resilient and independent.
But I hope being a military child also teaches her that it’s okay to be sad, frustrated, and mad about things you can’t control. I hope it teaches her that it’s okay to spend a night crying and eating chocolate. Because sometimes, life isn’t fair and there just is no reason why. I’ve had my fair share of those nights and I don’t think that pretending everything is okay is good for anyone.
I hope that she becomes the person she will become, in part, because of – not despite of – being a military child. But I hope that it’s not her entire identity. And while I love having her little, I am excited to see the person she will become.