Merriam Webster defines the word ‘brat’ as:
noun | \’brat;\
1 a: CHILD; specifically: an ill-mannered annoying child <a spoiled brat>
The word brat, alone, is not considered a compliment in general speech, but put the word military in front of it, and you get the most loving term of endearment that I, myself, would ever want to be called.
I grew up an Army brat. My dad served 30 years from 1972-2002. I spent 22 of those years experiencing military life and watching him serve his country. Through his service, I grew into a world traveler with a love for adventure. I developed a proud admiration for my country and anyone in a military uniform, and I developed a sense of adaptability and a go-with-the-flow nature that has kept me sane throughout my adult years.
As proud as I am of my experiences, I know a military childhood is not without its downsides. Moving every couple of years is hard work for a kid. I blame my ever-present restlessness as an adult on the military moves from my childhood. Yet, some of my fondest memories take place among a house full of brown moving boxes, with moving men and their moving trucks as background scenery. I remember very clearly the year my brother made me pee my pants from laughing so hard at the escapades he created with my super hero cabbage patch doll and the towering box buildings she couldn’t quite leap with a single bound. Not really Comedy Central material, but, man, it was the everything to a seven year old who was about to have her world turned upside down, again. I imagine, though, that the memory remains so vivid to this day because of the ruckus that followed once my mom realized what happened. Now a parent myself, I can understand how unexpected soiled clothing from a seven year old during a move could damper the mood.
I have four Army brats of my own, and I can see through their little eyes, now more than ever, how much our military kids serve our country, too. Mine are still young, and the few moves we’ve experienced probably won’t affect them much in the long run. The stability we’ve been able to experience, however, has been offset by their dad’s military travel. Our oldest–who will be nine this year–has been through two deployments and countless TDYs. When he was younger, it didn’t occur to me how much he was processing from military life. But when he was five, I began to notice his anxiety around airports. He was always with me when we dropped dad off, or picked him up, and one day as we headed to the San Antonio airport for a drop off, I could see him start to tear up in the back seat before we even turned in for departures. He never did cry, just got a little watery-eyed as he sat very somberly in the back seat. We didn’t make a big production of dad’s comings and goings, as to not let on that he would be away for a while, but it was obvious how unsuccessful we were in our attempts to shield him from his dad’s absence. He was very capable of putting two-and-two together, and at five, he could already recognize an airport from a distance. Later that year, as we traveled to the airport to pick someone up, he very eagerly asked who was coming. I don’t remember now who exactly it was, but I will always remember the disappointment on his face when the answer wasn’t dad.
Despite the absences and missed moments that pepper our memories, I don’t see my kids’ lives as scarred or sad. I don’t pity them or wish for different circumstances. Instead, I admire them for their strength and unconditional love for their soldier and own personal hero: their dad.
I love that they know when dad is gone it means he is working hard to take care of them and others around them. It also means when he comes home, they will spend days riding bikes, playing together in the front yard, watching movies, and taking rides in his truck just for the fun of it. That’s what they look forward to and what keeps them going. But in the meantime, while he’s away and the kids have questions and want to know what dad is doing, I love to sit down with them and put on the movie The Avengers, and say “That’s what daddy’s doing!”
I know his job isn’t nearly that glamorous or heroic, but to our kids, he is nothing less than a super hero, so that’s the best way I can imagine explaining it to them. I’ll make sure they will forever be our proud military brats.
If you asked me, I’d define brat this way:
Noun | \ ‘military brat’
1 a: CHILD; specifically: a child serving our country with strength, dignity an love as his or her parent(s) fight for our nation’s security domestically and abroad.
What do you love about your military brat?
Posted by Jenni Miller, Army spouse, photographer and blogger at Jenn Elisabeth Photography