I grew up as a civilian, and man, I had it hard. I had to live in the same (rather perfect) house my whole young life. I had to go to school at the same school several years in a row. When I graduated from that school, I went to another school close by ... with every single one of my friends. I even had to have Sunday dinner with grandparents. Guys, it was so.so.hard.
At least that's what I thought when I was a kid. And then when I grew up, in my fancy-free pre-Military days? I knew I had it so much harder still. I had business trips that would take me away from my dog for like four whole days. Maybe five. I had to go places like San Francisco and Las Vegas and in one particularly horrible case, I even had to go to Vienna. I mean ... that plane ride. All in coach!
But then I grew up and married my hero and had two little military kids of my own. Two rough-and-tumble, survive-anything, come-out-on-top-every-time military kids. Because that's what military kids do.
Here are 10 things normal civilians could learn from them - and every other military kid out there.
1. When you're new someplace, you better just go ahead and say hi.
Friends don't come to you. You go to them. And when you move all the time, you have to make a lot of new friends. So swallow your shyness and go up and say hello - after all, they probably came here at some point too and wondered who would be their friend. Ask if you can play. The worst they can say is no (and chances are high they'll say yes, instead).
2. Enough of that "one is silver and the other's gold" BS. They're all awesome.
Make new friends. Keep the old. And make no mistake, civilian, all of them are gold. New friends are just old friends in the making, and every military kid knows the value of a friend who is there right this very minute can't be overlooked. The friends you made at your last duty station? Awesome. The friends you're making at your new duty station? Awesome. The friends you make at the next one? Awesome too. They're all special, and you should treat them all that way.
3. It's good to be a helper.
Military parents have been surprised by the incredible resourcefulness of military kids for as long as trainings and deployments have been around. The seven-year-old who suddenly figured out how to make coffee when dad is gone for the third month in a row and mom is starting to look a little burnt out? That kid has legitimate angel wings. Milkids know figuring out the little things to help the house run smoothly will not only earn them mad points with mama, it will make the drain of military life a little less exhausting. When you're helping, you're in it together. And whenever you're in it together, it's always easier to get through.
4. Semper Fi is a way of life.
Loyalty matters. Civilians talk a lot about finding your tribe, but for military kids, it isn't about finding your tribe. Your tribe is all around you, and the loyalty is built in. They're there for each other because they all know what it's like. They've walked in each other's shoes. They've been forged in the same fires. And they've all come out strong as steel. Even grown military brats stick together - we all learned something about that last year.
5. Never focus on the absence. Focus on the upcoming presence.
Civilians and military kids have completely different experiences when it comes to separations. In the civilian world, a five-day business trip can feel like forever. For military kids, "long" is when a parent misses your birthday - twice. But even the longest trips? You can turn those into something good. Military kids know you don't focus on the 210 days ahead of you, you muddle through and then, at the end, you focus on those last 30 between you and your family being whole again. It's not about the absence. It's about the presence you can't wait to have back.
6. Never own more than you can move yourself.
Military kids will never be candidates for a spotlight on Hoarders. Why? Because there's only so much you can keep boxing up again and again before you realize you have way too much stuff. Keep what matters. Lose the rest. It'll tidy up your room, your move, and your life... and really, no one wants to be on Hoarders anyway.
7. Anything can be an adventure.
The single most important, universal truth of military life is that when Uncle Sam calls a parent out, he sends Uncle Murphy in. And Murphy's Law goes into effect almost immediately. Broken cars, washers, elbows... you name it, Murphy brings it. But MilKids bring the right attitude to the whole thing. After all, the whole "poor me" thing gets boring pretty fast... So you take the whole "the washer is broken" thing and turn it into a fun "let's wash our swimsuits in the bathtub!" moment. The fridge went on the fritz the minute Dad got on that plane? Well, might as well eat the ice cream before it melts. After all, dairy puts you halfway to a complete and nutritious dinner. Military kids have figured out that life isn't about going out on a great adventure. It's about finding it right where you are.
8. Your family won't look perfect, and that's okay (because looks aren't everything).
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and it always makes the family grow bigger. When Grandma and Grandpa can't catch a Space-A flight to Thanksgiving dinner, invite the folks next door. They'll share their green beans and their blessings and their beer and their thanks... and no matter where you are in the world, they'll always still count you as kin. You may not have the blood or legal binds accorded to by the title, but MilKids know that while blood runs deep, the military runs deeper.
9. Blooming where you're planted is easier done than said.
Yeah, you read that right. It's easier done than said. You know what's hard? Thinking about ways to fit into a new place. Stressing about what you're going to do to make a name for yourself in a new town. Agonizing over all that it takes to fit into a new culture, new society, maybe even new country. You know what's a whole lot easier? Showing up, introducing yourself, and getting the show on the road. You're still you wherever you are. Just do a good job at being you, and everything will pan out fine. (Adults of all stripes need to take a cue from milkids on this one.)
10. Everyone has to say goodbye.
It could be the normal kind - waving goodbye to a friend who is moving to a new duty station and who you may or may not see in real life for the next few years. Or it could be the really, really crappy kind of goodbye when someone is taken from you you weren't prepared to lose and will never get back. These are the real lives of military kids, and they have to make peace with all of them. Even when it's hardest, milkids find the "good" in "goodbye." And it's always there. In the memories, the lessons, the smiles, the strength - milkids are full of them. They take that good with them everywhere.
Because when it comes down to it, there's not much you need to know you can't learn from a military kid.
Happy Month of the Military Child, friends. We're so happy to be raising our kids with you!
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