I have been married to my husband for 22 years. During our marriage, we have moved ten times and lived in six different states. Did I mention we also have two beautiful kids? Our kids have made the majority of these moves with us. We are just an average military family, and this is military life.
Over the years, I can’t count the number of times I have been asked how I do it. “How do you move every few years?” “How do you pick up and leave your house, friends, and job?” And the one I hear most often – “How do you do that to your kids? They must be so sad and struggle so much when you move.”
Our last move was less than a year ago – yes, mid-pandemic – and I’ve never been asked that question more than I was asked when we moved this time. How could I even think to uproot them in such uncertain times? They we already dealing with so much. How could I add this to their already full plate? My response was simple… Well, I know my kids are strong and resilient. This isn’t going to be the thing that brings them down.
Many people see military kids as sad, struggling, or suffering from the perceived lack of continuity and stability in their lives. They worry about these transient military populations in schools and communities. Believe me when I say I’m not here to say these kids don’t need support. I just want the outside world to see another side of this military life.
My military kids have never known a different life. Both of my children had their first move under their belt by six months old. Both had attended three different schools in three different states by the third grade. Is this life always easy? No. But these experiences, being a military kid, aren’t all bad. If fact, I think this life has allowed them to glean a few life skills that a lot of kids their age don’t have.
Five things military life has taught my kids:
1. Change isn’t always bad.
One of my kids’ first real memories of moving was our move from the Washington, DC area to Great Falls, Montana. For kids who were accustomed to living in a town home, riding the metro, and having their pick of shopping and food, Montana was scary. The small town and a slow pace of life was so different from what they knew. But it wasn’t long before they realized that the small town made making friends easy and the slow pace of life left lots of time for bike rides and building forts. If you ask them now, Montana holds a special place in their hearts. It is one of their favorite places and they talk of their memories with friends there all the time. My kids know that change isn’t always bad, it may just take a little time to adjust.
2. Mindset is everything!
When we moved last summer – again from the Washington, DC area – the world was a pretty crazy place. My kids knew the move would be different from other moves, given the circumstances. We spent a lot of time talking about what it might look like and that we really didn’t have any definite answers. In the midst of all the chaos, my kids sat down and drew a map of our new home state. They found local rivers, lakes, bike paths, sites to see and visit, great restaurants and ice cream shops. They made a list of the top ten places we needed to see there when travel restrictions were lifted. The kids learned the new capital, big cities, state symbols, and some historical events. These two know that mindset is everything! They understand that they don’t have time to be negative if they want to make the most of every place we go. My kids have learned that life is what you make of it and how we view it makes a huge difference.
3. Family is always number one.
My daughter and son are best friends. They are just over five years apart and love spending time together. From skateboarding and driveway basketball games to holiday craft projects and heated video game battles, they look forward to seeing each other every afternoon after school. They have spent every available weekend, for as long as I can remember, camped out in the living room, watching movies, and playing board games. They know that no matter what, they will always have each other. When we move to a new place – they have each other. Before they make new friends – they have each other. When this life it tough – they have each other. Family is always number one!
4. Jump in! Don’t wait for life to come to you.
We moved to our new home mid-summer. Within a week, my daughter was attending open gyms at the local high school for volleyball and both of our kids had met a friend on our street. Now, here we are, nine months later. My daughter plays volleyball for both her school and a club team and applied for and landed a position on her yearbook staff. My son not only tried wrestling at another local school with kids he didn’t know, but joined one of the local basketball teams that plays weekly. He was selected as his school’s student of the quarter and elected his class leader. These two understand that you can’t wait for people and opportunities to come to you. You have to jump in! Take some chances and don’t be afraid of taking a risk.
5. Always have a plan B (and maybe C and D)
As a military family, we usually find out where we are moving four to six months out from our move date. When we left Montana, we didn’t find out WHERE we were moving until just three weeks before our packers came to pack our house. Our kids had a plan A location they had scouted out, a plan B location, and if all else failed, a plan C location. In those last few weeks and days before it was official, it oscillated almost daily where we would end up. These two military kids know that plan A is what we hope for, but having a backup is always a good idea. Because of this, they are rarely caught off guard and almost never left scrambling to get something done. They know life is about making plans and being flexible when it doesn’t go quite right.
Military Life Creates Dandelions…
Military children definitely face challenges. But these experiences build character, life skills, and a perspective that can truly set them up for success. That is the reason they are often called dandelions.
“Dandelions put down roots almost anywhere and it’s almost impossible to destroy. It’s an unpretentious plant, yet good looking. It’s a survivor in a broad range of climates.
Military children bloom everywhere the wind carries them. They are hardy and upright. Their roots are strong, cultivated deeply in the culture of the military – planted swiftly and surely. They’re ready to fly in the breezes that take them to new adventures, new lands, and new friends.
Military children are well-rounded, culturally aware, tolerant, and extremely resilient. They have learned from and early age that home is where their hearts are and that good friends can be found in every corner of the world.
They learn that to survive means to adapt, that the door the closes on chapter of their life opens to a new and exciting adventure, full of new friends and new experiences.”
So, next time you meet a child of a military family, I hope you won’t just see the challenges they face. Yes, their experiences can seem overwhelming at times, but please remember these impressive, young kids are shaping up to be pretty amazing adults, with a great set of life skills in their tool belt to pull from.
As for me and my military family, I know my little dandelions are strong and resilient and they won’t be easily blown down.