During my first two and a half years as a parent, I’ve discovered myself realizing that many of the clichés regarding what it’s like to be parent are true. It is the toughest but most rewarding job there is, you do love them more than you’ve ever loved anyone, and it is this inexplicable type of love, completely different than the way you’ve loved anyone else before. As I’ve watched my oldest daughter grow into a real person, with a personality and feelings and opinions, these thoughts don’t change. What has changed, though, is my heightened appreciation for military children.
Many of us are military wives, and know the tolls that this lifestyle can take on you. The long work hours. The late nights. The seemingly interminable deployments, only for him to come home and start talking about workups to the next deployment weeks later. It’s the same old story, and tens of thousands of women have each other to cry with, laugh with, and best of all, to vent to about their shared situation. In fact, I often feel entitled to complain, because the Marine Corps doesn’t pay me to pick up the slack that is left when my husband has to tend to the “need of the Corps.” It’s cathartic, and makes me feel better whenever I’m convinced that I have it the worst.
And then I think of my daughters, and look at how Caroline reacts to the world. Two and a half years ago she was born, and lived the first seven months of her life without her Daddy, who was in Afghanistan. She learned to hold her head up, sleep through the night, smile, and sit up without his guidance, and while I spent seven months grumbling that I was going through this all by myself, she put aside any separation anxiety and became “Daddy’s Girl” from the moment she saw him. Since his return, more training exercises and long nights have prevented my husband from spending precious moments with her, and while I often complain that I hate spending days on end as the only adult in the house, Caroline keeps a smile on her face. Despite being decades younger than me, Caroline’s resilience and positive attitude sets an inspiring example.
I know some of this behavior is inherent to children, but the older she gets, the more I truly believe that her attitude towards life is directly correlated to the fact that she was born into a military lifestyle. Skeptics may call it an unstable, unpredictable, and a unhealthy lifestyle, but when one is born into it, all he or she knows is to adapt and overcome. Each new person Caroline meets, regardless of age, is her friend, and she can entertain strangers at the drop of a hat. While she has her tantrum moments, we can discuss a big change that is coming, and she is able to comprehend it, prepare for it, and even be excited for it. She is not alone in her attitude; I’ve seen the same spirit, optimism, and flexibility in nearly every other military child I’ve met. So this month, as we celebrate the Military Child, I think we should all take note and thank them for the examples they give us in how to thrive in this crazy life.