By Lizann Lightfoot
There are numerous articles which praise the strength and resilience of military kids. For the most part, I agree with them. I have four children who don’t know anything besides military life, and so far they are all doing well. Even though we move every few years, experience multiple deployments, have never lived near family members, and spent part of their childhood overseas, our military brats have adapted well. They have handled the challenges of military life with a strength and toughness I didn’t have at their ages.
Nevertheless, it’s not all dandelions and roses for military kids. Military life is hard. When kids are young, they don’t understand the reasons for deployments and all the PCS moves. Sometimes I try my best to assure them it will be easier someday. Other times, when it seems they are doing well, I just let them continue on their merry way. Aren’t they better off not knowing that they are missing out on “norma”‘ civilian lives?
This means I keep lots of secrets from my military kids. There are days full of worry and stress that I work hard to shield them from. Some secrets are for their own good: Dad is in combat and I am very scared for him right now. Others are little white lies about military life: Sure, Bobby can still be your best friend, even though he is moving 3,000 miles away next month.
Don’t all military families keep some secrets from their kids?
Whether I am putting on a brave face and encouraging them to get used to a new duty station or reassuring them that all kids struggle with missing parents, I don’t always get to be completely honest with my children. So let’s take a moment to be honest with ourselves. Most military spouses keep some of these secrets from their military kids.
Here are the secrets we don’t tell our military kids
- No, that toy isn’t lost. I threw it out during the last PCS because I was so sick of hearing it.
- When we move, I miss my friends, too.
- Not everyone appreciates what the military does.
- Sometimes I wonder if re-enlisting was the right choice for us.
- If it wasn’t for cheap programs on base, you would never get to play sports.
- Sorry, honey, I have no idea where we will live next year.
- I wish I could have had four stamps in my passport before Kindergarten!
- Before deployment, I am scared and angry, too.
- During deployment, I let you stay up later snuggling because I really miss Dad.
- I’m sorry if I don’t give you enough attention. Sometimes I am just so tired.
- When you cry at bedtime, I leave the room and go cry, too.
- I got half of your toys for free from neighbors who were moving.
- Sometimes I feel homesick for our last duty station.
- I only signed up for this unit event because it had free childcare. You will go and you will like it, because Mommy needs a break.
- When your class says the Pledge of Allegiance, I have tears in my eyes every time.
- I don’t really care if you draw on that table. We’re getting rid of it when we move anyway.
- I’m glad you are too young to remember the times we waited in line for free groceries.
- I have no idea what country your deployed parent is in right now.
- I cringed when I heard about the daddy/daughter dance on base, because I know your dad won’t be able to take you.
- I wish you actually knew your aunts and uncles.
- I’m not interested in setting up play dates right now. We’re moving in a month!
- I liked your last school a lot better than this one.
- I know this life isn’t fair for you, and you have no idea how much that hurts me.
- I went to the same grade school and had the same friends for eight years. . . and I totally took it for granted.
- I count the days until you will have your own military ID and can pick up things from the commissary for me!
- Whenever you have a bad day and say you wish we could go back to the last duty station, it stabs my heart.
- I hope you will never, ever know how it feels to be handed a folded flag.
- I’m sorry you have never seen snow.
- I’m not sure where we will settle someday in a “forever home.”
- I will never forget the way your face lights up on homecoming day.
Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.