When my husband joined the Army 10 years ago we both worried about what this life would do to our kids. He joined the military after we were married and had two very young kids. I was born and raised in one town and that was all I’d known. So the idea of military life and such a unique childhood were a foreign concept to me. Everyone claims military kids are all brats. Moving around, and the inconsistencies of military life, will ruin your kids. Not to mention the devastating effect deployment will have. If you join the military you will ruin your kids – that’s what they say. But I want to argue with “they”. Being an Army family has not ruined my kids. It has made them wonderful individuals with more worldly insight than many adults.
In the last ten years my daughter has attended eight different schools. We have lived in six different places – Northern California, Germany, Hawaii, Alaska, Southern California, and now Kansas. We’ve flown over 75,000 miles. After giving birth to my now 6 year old son we came home to a hotel since we were still waiting on housing. Of the 41 months we lived in Alaska my husband was away for 21 of those. My kids know life via acronyms, absences, and Army rules. But that hasn’t destroyed them as many would expect. It has made them who they are – happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids.
I thought I would share with you just some of the reasons I feel the military has not ruined my kids:
1. My kids have seen the world and understand cultures more than many adults do
My oldest two have been to five different countries and 20+ states. The kids have been immersed in so many different cultures I can’t even explain. They have been the majority and the minority. They have met people from all ends of the world. Seeing these places, cultures, and people has taught them about accepting differences and appreciating others. They don’t judge because someone or something is different. Instead they accept differences as being a good thing and a great way to expand one’s awareness.
2. My kids have friends all over the world
As we move around my kids expand their web of friends to all edges of the planet. They don’t say good-bye when we, or their friends, drive away. They merely say “see you around” and connect with them online, on the phones, or via good old snail mail. When I was a child I had a pen pal in Ohio and that seemed so far away – my kids would find that rather comical. Instead of having friends only in one town they have friends spread over multiple continents.
3. My kids have self-confidence and the ability to make friends easily
Being the new kid over and over has taught my kids self-confidence well beyond their years. On our last move each of the kids didn’t even hesitate to step into that new school, where they didn’t know a soul, and say hello. They didn’t worry if anyone would like them or fear being judged. They went in, held out their hand, and introduced themselves.
4. My kids adapt to change without blinking
There is no shortage of changes when you’re a military family. Schedules are always different, moves happen constantly, dad comes and goes. Houses change, schools change, routines change. My kids can fall asleep in any hotel, any bed, and wake up happy. Something new, something different – no problem! I know some kids out there who freak if any little thing is different and I have to stop myself from laughing. Having everything the same all the time would seriously confuse my kids!
5. My kids appreciate family time
When dad is gone so often, and for extended periods of time, family time becomes something to relish and be grateful for. Dad may be gone for a week, a month, a year and with very little notice. Spending so much time apart has actually helped to grow that bond because nothing is taken for granted. There is no eye-rolling or huffing when we say its family day or family game night like so man other kids their age. They know time is precious and we need to enjoy it when we have it.
6. My kids understand the meaning of patriotism
Some kids these days roll their eyes at the National Anthem, but my kids stand tall and sing loudly. Their hats are off their heads, hands on their hearts, and bodies standing still. They have grown to love this country and what it stands for. The USA isn’t just the place we live, its a place we love.
7. My kids know how to live for today
Because so much change and uncertainty can exist in our lives, my kids have learned to live in the moment and enjoy life. Soon you may move somewhere else or have to say good-bye to someone you love. So they don’t waste opportunities – they prefer to get out and live. You never know when circumstances may change and the opportunity lost.
8. My kids have learned geography, history, ecology and more first-hand
Learning comes alive when you travel the world. World War II concentration camps – my kids have walked through them. California gold rush – they’ve stood where the first nugget was found. Notre Dame Cathedral – its not just in a cartoon, they’ve been there. What is an earthquake – no questions there since they’ve felt them. Migration of caribou – they’ve witnessed it. Aurora Borealis – seen it first hand. People save for years to travel and experience the things my kids have done – that education is priceless.
9. My kids are comfortable in their own skin
Having been everywhere and done everything has given them a level of comfort in themselves. They have experienced so much that they know who they are and what they believe in. This has given them a unique freedom of being comfortable with themselves.
10. My kids can call everywhere home
The inevitable question “Where are you from?” often leaves military kids stumped for an answer. Home is a relative term. My kids don’t call just one place home. They can call everywhere home. Where they were born and all those places they have lived are all home, and they happily proclaim it as so.
Just as being a civilian child doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect, being a military child doesn’t mean you’ll be ruined. Life is different in the military world. But different isn’t bad – its just different. So if you are raising military brats be proud. They are not all doomed to a life of ruin and issues. They have the opportunity to grow and experience like few others. Take those opportunities to build up your child instead of assuming it will ruin them.