The Bucket Brigade


Here is something I hear often enough from civilian friends and family members about our childrearing methods... "You're too hard on your kids!  They're only KIDS, you should give them time to be KIDS!"

The last time I heard this was when I told my then 7 year old daughter (we were at a gathering at someone's house) to clean up the mess she had made with the toys - there were Polly Pockets EVERYWHERE, and that she was not going to get dinner with the rest of us until she did.

It worked in nothing flat.  The bedroom she had been playing in was made spotless, the Polly Pockets neatly stowed in their nifty travel container, and #2 washed her hands and sat at the table only slightly later than the rest of us.

A few people at the table were impressed that #2 was so quick and thorough about it and chalked it up to having a very cooperative child.  A few people didn't care.  A few people were convinced that I would not have carried through on my threat of no dinner, anyway, but were glad to avoid the tantrums that would lead up to my giving in.

And a few people asked me if I realized I was being too hard on her.  After all, she was only seven years old.

Now, I have very mobile eyebrows.  They are the basis of every facial expression I have, and I very rarely look blank.  At the "too hard on her" comments, my eyebrows were pretty much to the roots of the hair on my forehead.  Since when is picking up your own toys "too hard"?  And it is apparently very easy to read my expressions, as the Too Hard Chorus sat back a little and gave me the "She just doesn't understand how Neanderthalic her methods are" look.

There were lots of looks flying around the table, let me tell you.  As soon as I saw the looks on the faces of the Too Hard Chorus, my eyebrows descended in a sharp V over my nose.  Then one raised.  Then I rolled my eyes and started talking to the Auntie Mame-ish character sitting next to me in the gold edged caftan.  She was MUCH more interesting conversation anyway. 

But it was yet another of the instances that drove home to me how different the lives of military brats are from many civilian counterparts.  And it helps me to understand why my children seek out military brats as friends.  They certainly don't refuse to enjoy another child's company if that child is civilian, but there is an instant comrade-ship with other brats that is almost like meeting long lost family.

I suppose I do seem hard on my children to some people.  We give instructions and expect them to be obeyed, we demand that they refer to people respectfully and follow good manners and etiquette at all time.  And I expect all of them - from the 14 year old down to the 4 year old - to be a part of making our house run smoothly.  After all, for a good huge part of every year it is only us.  And I'm TERRIBLE at mechanical things.

When one of the cupboards fell off a hinge during hubby's deployment my 14 year old fixed it.  When the dog has to go outside (he uses doggie sign language to tell us), whomever is closest to the door lets him out.  The four year old feeds the dog (under supervision).  The six year old is responsible for the kids' bathroom.  The seven year old empties the dishwasher.

There's no way I could do it all on my own.  And I really don't remember teaching my kids specifically to do these things, it seems like it has always been that way.  The house would not function otherwise.

Which leads me to the latest in the military family "Getting it Done" chronicles - the Great Ice Storm Bucket Brigade.

There are currently seven military brats in my house, as we have three visitors for about 5 weeks while their parents are out of the country.  We also had a huge ice storm.

I had assumed (something a military family should NEVER do) that we would not be going anywhere that day and left my car, looking quite interesting, with about 1/2 and inch of ice shelled over it.

Of course, I got a phone call that couldn't be ignored.  I had to go out, dig out my car myself and figure out how to open the doors with all that ice layered on them.  Enter the brats.

Without being prompted, my 14 year old ran in and started filling up pasta pots and buckets with water.  The 8 year old visiting boy took over.  My eight year old daughter ran the bucket to the door, the 12 year old visitor took the bucket out to the 14 year old who was then sloshing water on the van.  The six year old brought the empty pots into the house so the whole process could start again.  I manned the windshield ice chipper.

The four year old and the two year old sang unidentifiable battle songs and headed the dog off from the open door.

It went marvelously.  It took 8 minutes (we timed ourselves because we were in a HUGE hurry) to clear the ice off all windows and enable us to open the doors.  I'm sure that the mere idea that I was forcing all the children to toil away in the ice and freezing cold would have horrified some people.

But all I could think after everything settled down and I had time to reflect was, "Wow, military brats are truly amazing."


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