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Military Child Rearing - No Therapy Needed

Someone at a park once told me that our military lifestyle was going to screw up our kids.

Oh, and does it make it any better that this person was a total stranger? Yeah, I didn't think so either.

For those of you who are thinking, "Who does that?! How does that happen?! Parks are like the singles bar of motherhood. You go there with your kids, they play, you watch, and at some point, conversations strike up. Sometimes you hit gold and find an awesome mom to chit chat with and sometimes, like that time, you get a dud.

My son was wearing a USMC shirt and he came running up to me right as a plane from my husband's squadron flew over the park. The lady made a comment that I hear all the time about not even knowing there were Marines in the area. I suppose we are well hidden. Then came the next most frequently asked question, "How much is he home?" I told her the glorious, unvarnished truth -that we should just go ahead and install a revolving door at home. Sometimes he's home for weeks {though those times are rare} and sometimes it's home for a couple of days and gone for weeks. It is what it is.

She asked how the kids handle it, my oldest was about 3 at the time and like most kids, he's not so happy when daddy's away, but they deal. It was when I told her that yes, he'd probably stay the full 20 yrs for retirement, that she passed on her little nugget of "wisdom," you know the whole, your-screwing-up-your-kids-thing.

That's another side effect of where we are stationed, people up North don't mince words.

That was three years ago and I think about it a lot. When my kids get upset when daddy's gone, when they seem slightly more attached to me, when they cry at 2am for him, when they wake up in the morning and he's gone again, when they have a play at school and he's not there. I can't lie, I do sometimes wonder if maybe this isn't the healthiest lifestyle for them.

But then a few days before Memorial Day, on the way home from school, my now 6 year-old said something very enlightening, "The kids in class were saying that Memorial Day is when summer starts, but it's not, it's for us to remember the people who died in wars, all the mommies and daddies who didn't come home. That same week after his tee ball game, he lead the team in a cheer for America "because, after all, it's the greatest country".

And then it hit me. The positive side of military childhood, an understanding of the greater good, of responsibility, and of sacrifice.

Sure, our kids grow up in houses where the normal takes on a new meaning and to those who don't understand our normal then I suppose it could look like a less than ideal way to raise our kids. I know I would love for my husband, and my kids would love for their dad to be home more. I'd probably be a different parent if he was. I wouldn't be quite as frustrated, we wouldn't eat so many chicken nuggets, maybe I wouldn't forget Halloween {yes, yes I forgot Halloween and only remembered it when I dropped dash2 off at nursery school and everyone was wearing a costume}, the boys would go inside of a men's room more than they go into a women's room {the first time our oldest saw a urinal he thought it was a sink and the urinal cake was a bar of soap, and he "washed" his hands in it}. See where I could start to think that perhaps we should be saving not for college, but for therapy? Yet, all this aside, as our kids get older they are understanding that while not every dad flies an airplane and has to go away, their dad is away because he keeps us all safe, that he's taken on a responsibility, and that someone has to serve.

It doesn't always make the 2am crying less gut wrenching or solo parenting {and solo vomit cleaning for that matter} any easier, but it does give me hope that my children will take some very important positives away from this military stage of their lives.

And I'm hoping to save on therapy later. After all, after having three kids, mama's gonna need a boob job.

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