"Is there anything else we should know about your child?" is often the last question on a school's beginning-of-the-year questionnaire. The sheet that asks about siblings and allergies, strengths and weaknesses, closes with, "Anything else?"
The first time I completed one of these forms, my oldest was headed to kindergarten. I diligently answered each question, and was about to finish and put the papers back in his folder, when the last question stopped me dead in my tracks.
I was going to skip it. After such an extensive form, what else could the school possibly want to know about my child?
Then, it hit me. My child is an active-duty military kid, and we were not in a military town. We were, at best, an anomaly and, at worst, a sideshow. I hesitated as I wrote out this revelation on the line.
A few days later, I returned the paperwork to the front office at my son's new school. The school secretary scanned the paperwork for completeness, and I saw her pause at the bottom of the page. She stared a little longer than necessary and, as her eyes finally came level with mine, I saw tears threatening to spill over.
She sniffed, wiped at her eyes, and said, "Thank you for your service." I mumbled something to the effect of, "You're welcome," and ran out the door.
Once outside, I stopped and took a deep breath while tears ran down my face. I called my best friend and sobbed into the phone, "I don't want him to be different."
I realized why I had hesitated to answer the last question. I didn't want my child singled out or looked at differently.
Yet, I also had to tell the truth. The truth was that he was on his third school in three years. The truth was that my emergency contacts were my parents, who lived seven hours south of us, because I didn't know anyone else to put on the form. The hardest truth may have been that my son had lived longer without his Daddy than with him.
This civilian town was the first place where all four of us -- my husband, our two sons and I -- had lived together under one roof for longer than a weekend. And those truths were not something everyone else in my son's class would experience.
Yet there is no happier kindergartner than one whose Daddy shows up in uniform to read, "My Sailor Dad," by Ross H. Mackenzie, for Read Across America Week. Our oldest was proud to be a military kid and excited to show off his dad's cool uniform.
Now, when I'm asked, "Is there anything else we should know about your child?" my response is a resounding, "Yes!" and tears of pride.
I needn't have feared his uniqueness. For even when he's the only one, my child meets life with the grit and tenacity that comes from living this military life.
Keep Up with the Ins and Outs of Military Life
For the latest military news and tips on military family benefits and more, subscribe to Military.com and have the information you need delivered directly to your inbox.