April is host to a lot of observations. It is National Canine Fitness Month, National Fresh Celery Month, National Soft Pretzel Month, and perhaps the most fitting for the current state of affairs – the National Month of Hope. April also happens to be the Month of the Military Child. As a mother who has literally spent every second with her military children over the past month (minus an hour-long solo trip to Trader Joe’s), I feel confident in declaring that my children are incredibly amazingly resilient creatures. And I can’t help but think that their experiences associated with having a parent in the military has something to do with their ability to adapt, overcome, and even thrive amidst chaos. They’re not perfect – they’ve had their fair share of meltdowns and arguments over the past few weeks (on any given day, our daughter yells at our son to quit ‘mansplaining’) but they’ve also demonstrated grace, understanding, and courage.
I snapped this photo on one of our evening walks earlier this week and I absolutely love how it sums up their personalities. Our son can be rigid – he is extremely routine-oriented, loves structure, and having the ability to focus on whatever he wishes to accomplish. Our daughter is a free-spirit and skips through life – schedules can be overwhelming to her and stifle her creativity. But despite their vastly different personalities, they share a lot of common traits that allow them to roll with the punches and approach life with a sense of adventure and appreciation for the unexpected. And in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, I’m extremely thankful for this fact.
In a couple of months, assuming everything goes according to plan, the Army will be sending us to Chicago. Our son will attend his fourth elementary school and our daughter will attend her second. While they’re no stranger to PCSing (this will be number six for our son and number four for our daughter), they’ve always been able to say goodbye and feel a sense of closure as we pull away from our house for the last time. As we prepare to PCS during a pandemic, realizations such as them never walking the halls of their beloved elementary school ever again, them never playing baseball with their friends ever again, and the very real possibility of not even being able to hug their friends, teachers, coaches, etc… goodbye are beginning to set in. Yes – our children are incredibly resilient but they’re also human.
Every parent worries if they’re screwing up their children – that school of thought certainly isn’t limited to military families. But it is impossible to not question what the impact of multiple moves, schools, and ‘starting over’ will have on our children – especially as they enter adolescence. Add in the reality of having a father whose job takes him away for extended periods of time and I can’t help but wonder if we’re doing the right thing. There are a lot of benefits that our children receive for being military children – both tangible and abstract – but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there are also a few drawbacks. As my husband’s military career continues to flourish, we’re constantly checking-in with each other and the children to see if his given path compliments the personal goals we have for our family. As of right now, we’re all on the same page and our children are excited for the new adventures that PCSing to Chicago will bring. But my husband and I are prepared for the possibility of our children growing tired of the nomadic lifestyle and we will cross that bridge when the time comes.
In the meantime, we are a team and we do hard things. The life we share together is a gift and an opportunity to leave the places we call home a little better than they were when we arrived. Our resilient military children are curious about the world and show incredible strength and courage when approaching uncharted territory. Our wish is not only for them to never lose their sense of adventure and to find value in tough situations, but to also look back on their childhood as one filled with love, encouragement, and some really cool experiences. How they’ve handled the pandemic fallout thus far showcases the positive impact the military has had on their lives – we can only hope that the military lifestyle continues to remain a source of learned lessons that will serve them well as they venture out into the world on their own. Resiliency is a virtue and one that I am proud my children showcase on a daily basis – even in the midst of a pandemic.