For the past 23 years, I’ve been a military spouse. For 21 of those years, I’ve also been a mother. Over the years I’ve often wondered if I taught my two kids everything they need to know (I’m quite sure there is plenty left to teach).
But as I got to thinking about this, I realized those two military children of mine have taught me some things I’m glad I know now.
Here are six life lessons they’ve taught me.
- Home really is where you hang your heart. People are always asking us where we are from. Being a native Kansan (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!), I tell them we are from the Midwest. My children look at me like I’m crazy, and respond, “Right now we are from Northern Virginia.” To my kids, ‘home’ really is where the family resides. I suppose they are right; there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
- It’s important to have a pet. When we found out, two weeks before Christmas, we were moving to Alabama, my kids were anything but excited. So I told them they could get a puppy once we got to Maxwell AFB. Some call it bribery; I call it working the situation. Our new puppy Max (short for “Maxwell” – get it?) gave them something to look forward to. Even better, when they’d take Max out for his daily walks, they’d meet all kinds of kids in our new neighborhood. Today, they still have a very lovable companion who reminds them of our great year in Alabama.
- It’s important to try, even if you fail. Just after moving to a new school, my son, who was 13, wanted to run for Student Council President. I cautioned him that we had just moved there, and nobody knew who he was. He assured me that it was okay, as he had some really good ideas for his political platform. Inwardly I cringed. He got crushed in a landslide defeat, but afterwards said to me, “Well, a lot more people know who I am now!” Have the courage to try.
- All that moving around really DOES build character. My son, who is now 21 and ready to start his senior year in college, took the brunt of our military moves. I shouldn’t have been surprised when he elected to go to an out-of-state college where he knew no one. He dove into the Kent State culture, and has navigated himself beautifully. During his first two years, he lived on campus, where most of the student population went home on long weekends. He stayed on campus by himself, and managed it all quite well. Of course he’d be equipped to deal with things on his own… he’s been doing it his whole life.
- You can find humor in any situation. After just moving to Northern Virginia, I started coaching my daughter’s softball team. On one cold rainy fall night, we arrived home after practice, covered in dirt, chilled to the bone, and wanting nothing more than a hot shower. Turns out, the gas company had cut off our gas that day due to a gas leak in the neighborhood. They refused to turn it back on since my name wasn’t on the account – rookie mistake! And guess what? My husband was TDY! There I stood with my daughter, at 9 o’clock at night, filthy and shivering, and no hopes of a hot shower. She just burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, and I soon joined her. What else could we do? I suppose I learned several lessons that night, including that I have very nice neighbors who are willing to open up their showers to us late at night!
- It’s okay that my career never flourished. I was talking to my 17 year-old daughter about colleges and careers, encouraging her to pursue something great. She began asking about me, and I embarrassingly told her I never really had a thriving career. For the first 15 years of my children’s lives, I held many part-time jobs, working around their school schedules and finding whatever job I could wherever it was that we lived. I was a jack of all trades, master of none. My daughter couldn’t understand why I would be embarrassed about this. She asked, “If you worked, who would have been there to take care of us while Dad was always gone?” (Ah, she’s a sweet one!) She and her brother will always remember that I was there to see them off to school every day, and I was there when they got home. That’s something. And for me, that’s enough.
What lessons have your military kids taught you?