When military families kids live so far away from their extended families, a true sense of family can be lost. So how do we help to capture it?
When I was growing up, we were close to my grandparents on my mother's side. After all, we had Sunday dinner at their house nearly every week. My aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived locally were all there as well.
When we got older and my grandfather had a stroke, he was paralyzed and unable to talk. Dad and my uncles made sure they brought my grandfather home from the nursing home for whole weekends when they could.
With their help, my grandmother could spend time with Pop. He needed to be lifted in and out of his chair or bed, so someone had to do that for her. It was family, and there was a blending of the generations, in which we learned to care for each other.
Each time they arrived, the boys seemed to be at completely different developmental stages from where they had been during the previous visit. It seemed they had to get to know each other all over again, and my husband and I were the missing link for much of it.
We intervened when there were conflicts, and treated the situations as temporary adjustments that needed to be made for a short period of time-- to bring peace to the moment.
After all, the next week everything would go back to normal, so nothing needed to be done for the long-term relationship. That family bonding never really took place beyond the immediate family.Without that bonding and blending of the generations, a true sense of family can be lost. so how do we help to capture it with our military children who often live separated from extended family?
There doesn't seem to be any easy answer. Even the problem gets masked when there are so many other pressing issues with the military family.
I never saw how important that family time was until I saw my grown children's responses to extended family. They have bonded well with us as their parents, but they still see the extended family as outsiders or temporary family members. They don't have close relationships with them.
Unfortunately, we also see this with our granddaughters who've been raised in the military community. We took the girls to Disney World last year for a week. When they had a conflict, they used their cell phones to call their mom to "tell on each other."
It never occurred to them to discuss the matters with us, their grandparents, because we have become those family members who only make an occasional appearance. We don't have the scoop on what's happening in their daily lives.
What's the answer? As a military mom and military grandparent myself, I think first and foremost you must be aware of the situation.
Knowing there is a need is half the solution. Be on the lookout for those situations that will bring your extended family closer together. Use things like Skype and Face Time on a regular basis.You can teach your older children to text their grandparents or call them weekly just to talk and keep them in the loop.
I remember thinking the rest of the family couldn't possibly understand the struggles we were facing because they hadn't lived through it.
Since that time, I've learned that whatever we face, it is common to all mankind in some way and that we missed a powerful resource when we didn't allow our families to be part of our immediate support system.
We relied heavily on friends and neighbors who were wonderful to us, but they have a different role in our lives than family.
Extended family is necessary for military kids. Family is our heritage. Our roots. Where we came from. It's the foundational structure of who we are and what we believe.
A family is made up of the people who would lay down their lives for us and be there when all else fails.
My sister lives more than 500 miles away now. Today her heart was broken by a situation with my nephew. Who did she call? She has plenty of close friends who live near her.
She called me, her sister. We have a bond that transcends all other bonds. We're family. And that's what military kids really need.
Madeleine Carroll is a math and literature teacher with a passion for art and writing. She was a military wife for 20 years and military mother for many more. Her new book, “The Dead Cattle Ranch Mystery,” is a children’s and young adult book that addresses the bond between grandparents and grandchildren during a deployment.