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Are You Naked and Afraid?

Mud run

"Naked and Afraid." Have you seen this show? Two strangers get dropped off together -- naked -- in a jungle and they have to survive for 21 days, without any gear or help.

Once you get your mind around the idea that anyone would volunteer to be both naked and afraid on TV, it's a pretty good show.

And an awful lot like life as a Must-Have Parent in a military household. 

Although I suppose there's no such thing as a "‘muffin top" when you're actually buck naked ...

Aside from the naked-on-TV part, I actually think I'd be awesome on that show. I'd need a hardcore class in survival skills first, of course.

Without a solid handle on how the woods works, I'd probably eat the first red berries I found and wander into a broken down school bus. But given a little bit of training, the idea of surviving in a hostile environment using only my wits doesn't scare me. I already do that.

Every. Flippin'. Day.

Life as an MHP can be extremely challenging and I've been doing this for a decade now. Sure, I haven't had to bash a boa constrictor's head with a coconut just to get something to eat, and I've never had to lash together palm fronds to use as a shelter, but I've done many things just as difficult.

There's the obviously terrifying stuff, like giving birth alone -- and during a hurricane, no less; moving twice to cities where I knew no one while my husband was deployed; and hunkering down in a damp basement with a flashlight, a weather radio, two preschoolers and a fully spooked dog.

And then there's the more subtly terrifying stuff: Advocating for my children, educationally and medically, with just my gut instinct and some internet research to go on. Navigating Emergency Rooms (yes, plural) in the middle of the night. Consoling little ones who want nothing more than the one parent who can't be there.

Once, in my final week of my second pregnancy, I wiggled into the crawl space under my house to find and turn off the main water supply because it was 2 a.m. and a pipe had burst in the bathroom. I knew I wouldn't be able to get a plumber to the house to help in time and our floors would be ruined if I didn't do something quickly.

I've installed a thermostat, built a privacy fence, snaked many a Thomas Train out of the plumbing lines, sat a vigil with my middle child in an Intensive Care Unit and hunted down my dog, each and every one of the dozens of time he has run away.

Last year, while my husband was deployed, our house became infested with ticks, thousands of them, and they were literally crawling up the walls. I handled it. I'm not saying I didn't scream or cry -- I did both -- but so do those people on Naked and Afraid.

Two years ago, when my dog turned on the water while I was out running errands and I came home to an entirely flooded house -- I invented new cuss words and launched a fatwa against the dog. And then I bought a shop vac and got to work.

I'm not fearless, but I'm not easily scared. Not anymore. That's the gift of being a Must-Have Parent. After a few years of constantly having to step up and find a way, we begin to just know the way.

Finding ourselves, over and over again, in situations where our judgment has to be good enough to protect our children and hold our families and our homes together is the most incredible of confidence builders.

So, no, I'm not naked, and I'm definitely not afraid. Not anymore.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Family and Spouse Military Parenting

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Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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