Sydney’s husband and children

Why My Children are Blessed to be Army Brats

Every year when I flip the calendar to April, I immediately see purple, and I feel a unique sense of ache in my heart that brings me simultaneous sadness and gratitude for the ones I love most, my children. It is a month to be mindful of what they endure in a lifestyle they didn’t choose, but also a time to feel proud and thankful for the challenges I am continuously given as opportunities to teach them how to get through the difficult times — and more importantly — grow from them.

In the military community, April is recognized as the Month of the Military Child. This year, our children are aged 5, 3 and 1, so I feel like I am just getting to the beginning of the thick of it and learning why it is that our children get an entire month devoted to them in honor of their roles as military children.

Now that our oldest is elementary-aged, we are just arriving at the hard part as we prepare for a PCS this summer. I realize these will be the first good friends he’ll have to say goodbye to. This is the first school he’ll have to leave. This is one of the many fun backyards he’ll have to walk away from. While he doesn’t know it yet; I know it is coming, and it’s even harder knowing that this is just the first time of many. I understand each move will get harder on our children as they grow from adaptable kids to lesser-so-adolescents. I tell myself our children will be okay, and if I handle our move with grace, so will they. As a mother who can’t help but wish for an easy life for my children full of predictability, stability and deeply planted roots, my heart can’t help but hurt at times, knowing what lies ahead for them.

In April, you will hear many military parents speak on this subject. You will read endless articles about how hard military life is on our children. You will also hear the word “resiliency” about one million times in April. We like to remind ourselves of the shiniest of the silver linings: that while this lifestyle will rip our hearts out over and over as we helplessly uproot our children again and again, this will teach them resiliency, and they will be stronger for it.

This is a truth spoken so widely in our community, and I understand its appeal. That our children will become resilient is a fact that deeply reassures us that our children will be fine in the end and that we just need to focus on the big picture. We remind ourselves of all the adults who were once military kids, and how they are now strong and independent people we admire.

What you’ll see less of in April is a celebration for our children. You’ll rarely hear of all the reasons our children are lucky to be in the military community. Of course, those things aren’t always the first that come to mind when we know our children face great challenges. But what we often forget is that they will live a life full of so many more adventures and experiences than other children.

I recently made a list of all the reasons I am thankful our children are lucky to be Army brats, so that way I can go back and remind myself of those things on the hard days and in the difficult seasons, and you can, too:

  • Our children meet more people than most. While our children have to say goodbye more often than most children their age, they also get to experience many more friendships over their youth. If they don’t have a great friend group at one duty station, they can hope for a better one at the next. There is always a fresh start for them. If they don’t like who they were in one place, they start new at the next place. Our children learn to make friends quickly, and they help us to make friends also by getting us out of the house and into the school and church communities.
  • Our children see more places than most. Our children get to see so much of the country as they grow up, and sometimes even more if stationed overseas. They might live in the South for a few years, then the Midwest, followed by the Pacific Northwest and then back to the South. They get to experience different climates with different types of seasons. In some places, the winters are sunny and warm most days, and the summers are only to be survived with water activities and endless popsicles. In other places, the winters are cold and dreary. Our children get to experience bundling up, making snow angels, hiking in the rain, summers spent picnicking every day and spending every waking minute outside soaking up the beauty.
  • Our children are closer to their families than most. Growing up, I’d always heard how “tight-knit” military families were. I understand that reality now. I am already ingraining this idea in my children’s minds that they need to be each other’s best friends. When we move, they will be all each other has. We are a little unit that moves around together, and no matter what changes, the constant is that our family stays together through it all. Building a strong foundation in our marriage and our home life is crucial to instilling this value in our children.
  • Our children will carry more memories than most. This one encompasses everything I listed above. It’s just the reality that our children experience more people and more places, they will have more memories because of it. They’ll have a handful of homes they remember, different bedrooms, different backyards, different schools, churches, friend groups, playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic spots and more. They’ll see their past in endless shades of every different color. They will one day be able to fill an entire book with paintings of their childhood, whereas non-military children might only be able to fill up a few pages. Even when our children miss certain times more than others, they will look back fondly on their childhoods. They’ll eventually forget about the sadness that came with goodbyes because they’ll remember the excitement they felt when you brought them to the next place. They’ll remember how you made each place an adventure. They’ll remember you for embracing wherever you were, making the best of it, and making any place a home. They’ll be good at all of that, too, someday when they’re parents of their own.

The most important thing we can remind ourselves of along this unique parenting journey is that while we are often helpless in where we take our military children, we aren’t helpless in giving them wonderful lives. Even as the walls change colors around them every few years, the backyards change shape and the faces of friends are replaced, we can give them emotional stability despite the physical instability. As their parents, we can lead them by example in growing well wherever we are planted.

This skill is a precious gift we can give to our children, and we can give it to them because they are military children.

I am prepared for a difficult journey in raising our military children, but I’m also confident it is one of the greatest gifts we could give them as parents. Our job is not to give them an easy life, but to teach them how to make the best of a challenging one.

Written By Sydney Smith
Army Spouse

Sydney has been an Army wife for four years and has two children. She often writes on the raw experiences military spouses face during challenging times, striving to be a voice of encouragement and validation among the military spouse community.

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