As April comes to a close, and the month dedicated to recognizing our military children ends, I wanted to take this time to really understand what being a military child means to our brave little ones.
My husband and I do not have children of our own just yet, but we are in the beginning stages of discussing an expansion to our family of two. And even though I am surrounded by military children at times, I still don’t really know how much this lifestyle can affect them personally. I am sure our young ones don’t necessarily understand the gravity of what their parents go through during deployments. However, I know they do feel the effects of the military just as much as any of us have.
With wanting to learn more about how our military children feel about the service and the lifestyle in general, I decided it would be fun to ask them directly. The responses I received from six different children, all at various ages, were both adorable and inspiring. As a military spouse planning to have little ones of my own within the near future, hearing what these children had to say warmed my heart.
I began by asking them what they think the military is in general. And these children knew exactly what to say. One touching 6-year-old describes, “The military is where my daddy works with his other soldiers to protect me, mommy and my baby sister.” A 5-year-old girl notes the attire by stating, “A lot of people that fight for freedom and wear uniforms.” And one smart 8-year-old explains that the military is made of “People that fight against the bad guys for freedom.” With all accurate and well put answers, I was impressed.
I then asked if they understood what their father does as a service member. An 8-year-old explains that his father “Works to protect people who need help and he goes out on missions.” Then concludes his answer with, “He also wears a really cool hat,” referring to his father’s Stetson. A 6-year-old little girl shares, “He fights for freedom and for people to be nicer to each other.” While a 9-year-old in third grade understands that her father “Works because he has to fight for the military, so he doesn’t get hurt or killed from the bad guys.” It’s this response that touched me most. This child knows and understands the dangers that are associated with her father’s job. It goes to show how brave military children like her, can be.
I went deeper with my questions and asked what it is that they look forward to do with their father when he comes home from being away. As a spouse we fear reintegration, but these children have endless ideas of activities – things that have been missing for months. One 5-year-old says, “I like to play with him and watch movies. And I also like to go paint pottery with him.” Another 6 year old responded with, “Play video games and color our superhero books together. And I like to practice karate too.” A third grader moved me when she said, “Spending time with him, and just being with him because I miss him when he is gone.” And of course like any other toddler, this 4-year-old wants to “Play with him at the park and go to McDonalds.”
When discussing moves and PCS’s, as someone who is planning on starting a family, this is the one area I fear most with children; taking them away from schools, friends and the familiar. I wanted to hear how these military children felt about moving so often, and out of all the places they have lived which was their favorite. Most of the responses were positive, which surprised me. Like this response, “I like moving around because I get to meet new friends. I’ve lived in five different states and my favorite state is Virginia because we had a 3 story house and my bedroom was huge.” And this one, “I like moving around because I like meeting people.” However, this little 6-year-old girl felt a bit differently saying, “I like moving so-so. I liked North Carolina the most, because I had a lot of friends there and I was closer to them and I could play with them often.” From this response I gathered that perhaps moving was tough, and she is missing her friends. But it is a response from a young boy that had me laugh out loud. “Moving is fun, but mommy doesn’t like it because of the mess.” At such a young age, this smart little guy just understands.
As I concluded my interviews I decided to ask one last question I thought their mother and father would enjoy. What do you love most about mommy and daddy? There were a lot of “Because they take care of me and they love me,” but here are a few of my favorite responses: “Because they cook dinner for us and I can’t stop loving them both because they are the best. I’m going to draw a sign for my daddy when he gets home because I love him and I miss him every day he is gone from us.” “I love that they are funny and nice. And they keep us safe, especially Daddy in the Army.” “Mommy cooks really yummy and always cuddles with me. She is also beautiful. Daddy is fun to play with and I love it when he takes me out just the two of us.”
After hearing all the responses and listening to what young military children have to say, I feel a great since of pride in being associated with the military all over again. The knowledge and bravery these children showed in their responses helps me understand that possibly having my future children grow in a military lifestyle is going to be alright. I now look forward to raising our child in this unique lifestyle. So as this month ends and I have taken the time to reflect on our children, I can’t help but feel every month should be dedicated to our military children – the bravest of us all.