Friday, January 20, 2012

The Story of Good-byes: Raising Military Brats

"You know who my first girlfriend was?" I was minding my own business, grading papers at my desk during free time the other day when one my students decided to pour his heart out to me. 


"Your first girlfriend?"  I asked, stifling a chuckle.  "Hmmm, no I don't think I know who your first girlfriend was."


"My first girlfriend was Sara.  Do you know Sara?  I really loved Sara.  I wanted to marry her.  But she goes to a different school now.  I don't know where she is.  Who am I going to marry now?"   I reached over and gave my heartbroken little friend a hug for losing the love of his life.  "I wonder who my next girlfriend will be."  Then he shrugged his shoulders, and poof, he was off to build a Lego masterpiece with his buddies.  Ahh, the resilience of a 5-year-old. 


I watched the boy laugh with his friends, and I imagined his life as he grew up.  This wouldn't be his last heartbreak.  This wouldn't be the last time a friend left to attend a different school.  This wouldn't be the last time he lost track of friends.  I knew this because, like my own children, he is a military brat.  His life is destined to be filled with good-byes.



My kids have already said lots of good-byes.  At almost 8 years old, my son has lived in 5 different houses in 2 different states and 2 different countries.  My daughter, at 4 years old, has lived in 3 different houses in 2 different countries.  They've said good-bye to friends who were PCS'ing, and they've said good-bye to friends because of our own PCS'es.  They've seen friends come and go, and they've seen old friends make reappearances in new locations.  Yes, the military lifestyle is filled with good-byes.


Luckily my children don't remember most of these good-byes because they were both too young to remember our last PCS move, and so far we've been successful at homesteading at our current duty station.  This is actually the 3rd year my son has attended the same elementary school!  That's highly unusual in military life.  And I'm so grateful.  We've managed to keep the good-byes at bay.


But there's no guarantee how long we'll be here.  And there's no guarantee how long friends will be here.  In fact, our family will soon be saying good-bye to friends we've already said good-bye to once before.  But this second farewell will be much harder than the first.  This time my kids are old enough to understand what good-bye means.  This time they're old enough to miss their friends.  This time I have a lot more explaining to do.  This time will be tough because I'm going to be just as devastated to say good-bye to my own friend as they will be to say good-bye to their friends.


As I've said good-bye to friends in the past, I told myself it wasn't good-bye, it was see you later.  Deep down I knew that some of those people would resurface later in my life and some I'd never hear from again.  It's easy to rationalize these good-byes as an adult.  But it's not so easy for kids. 



Whether it's one of my kindergarten students saying good-bye to his first girlfriend or my son saying good-bye to his Bey Blades battle buddy or my daughter saying good-bye to the only consistent playmates she's ever known, I try to remind these amazing children, these sons and daughters of service members, these military brats who didn't ask to be a part of this crazy lifestyle, that it's not good-bye.  It's always see you later.  One day our paths will cross again.  In the meantime, we'll keep in touch and meet some new friends along the way.


I hope that my children's good-byes are limited.  I hope that the good-byes they do have to say become life lessons in appreciating friendships and working to maintain them no matter how geographically challenged they may be.  And I hope that they're always as resilient as my 5-year-old student as he searches for his next bride-to-be.
Have your military brats said many good-byes?  How do they handle it?



13 comments:

  1. This post brought tears to my eyes. My daughters only 3 and since my husband left the Marines to join the Coast Guard we have our first big move coming up in 5 days (from CA to NC). I know this is just the first of many and I know in a few years she's going to start understanding. I hope for her the same things you hope for your kids.

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    1. I hope the move went well Mrs. B! Don't forget, it's not goodbye, it's see you later. :)

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  2. Such a sweet blog post. It is seriously amazing at how kids are sometimes so soft but they breakout from the moment so strong. You are so right at how difficult it is more for kids than for adults. But even I'm a softy when I have to move away from a good friend or vice versa. Because good friends are so hard to come by especially as a Military family member.

    I often think about how L is going to handle things as she grows up. I am hoping with everything we do, she'll be that much more resilient when she has to deal with this situation and other situations as we encounter them. But for now I should be glad that she is only 2 about to be 3 this summer and that she won't be hurt by moving away from people.

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    1. I'm a softy too when it comes to moving away from friends. Sometimes I think it's harder for me than it is for my kids! They're so much more resilient than I am. :)

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  3. It's been hard for me growing up in the Air Force, I've seem to keep up the pattern as an adult. Moving every two to three years. I think they now call it "Need for Change" syndrom. Who knows, that stuff is all above my head.

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    1. The "Need for Change" syndrome...I like that. I sometimes wonder if my son had that a few years ago because shortly after we moved here he kept asking me when we were going to move again. Hopefully your need for change syndrome is more of an adventure than a bad thing. :)

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  4. Great post! As an Army brat, I related to the Story of Goodbyes, but many of them have turned out to be "see you laters," as my closest adult friends today are other brats from my high school years. The 2-3 year urge to move doesn't seem to go away though...

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    1. It's so wonderful as a mom of military brats to hear that so many of your goodbyes really were only see you laters! That gives me hope for my own kids. Thanks for the comment. :)

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  5. As a Navy brat I moved every 2 years until high school. I only spent 10 months in the continental US between the ages of 3 and 19. And I loved it. I think children who start this life before they can remember don't even have to adjust because it is all they know. It was never about goodbye for us, it was always about where we were going next. I think it was much harder for my mother, who was born and raised in the same house until she went to college, than it was for us kids. The hardest time I had was when we moved back to the states. Every time I moved to a new base, everyone was very welcoming. When I moved back to the states my sophomore year of college, no one spoke to me, no one showed me around, no one introduced me to people and hung out with me until I made my own friends, which is what happened every time I moved to a new base.
    I don't have the urge to move any more (I've been at my present location for 9 years now, but I loved moving to different countries and seeing the world as I was growing up. So for those of you who didn't grow up brats, but are raising your children that way, know that you are not damaging them, you are giving them a a very special gift that they will treasure all their lives.

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    1. Oh, thank you so much for such an encouraging comment. I worry so much about damaging my children by bringing them up in this crazy military lifestyle, so it's wonderful to hear some positivity! Thank you.

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  6. Born and raised an Army brat, along with 4 siblings. I am the oldest so I had the most moves/schools etc. I was 20 yrs old when my dad retired, I am now (almost) 56. When people ask me where I'm from (well after 30 years in my current city, I say Milwaukee!) or where I grew up I have to stop and explain the whole thing. Where did you go to school? Well, which year do you mean. I can count 13 schools before I graduated HS. But that was the norm for us, and all our friends. The hard part was when my dad was assigned to a "civilian" post as a National Guard trainer....at age 16 it was my first experience of going to civilian schools where everyone knew each other from kindergarten. But you are right about the "see you laters". And thanks to internet and facebook and military brats websites etc, I have gotten back in touch with "kids" I knew, and with men my late father served with. My mom found a former army wife from 1965 on Facebook, talks to her, and through that my siblings and I talk to the "kids". Another dear friend I see every few years as she comes here to visit relatives. Another one I have not seen face to face since our 16th birthdays in 1972, but we still keep in touch. Being an Army brat was the only life I knew growing up, I thought it was terribly weird...and boring...when people told me they grew up in the same town their whole life, went to same schools, etc. I mean, at 3 different times of my childhood I was in Germany, my HS football team (Nurnburg Eagles) played football in the former Nurnburg stadium, I went to Neuscwanstein castle for several family vacations, my Girl Scout trips were to London and Switzerland, my brothers Boy Scout trips were to Berlin. We were there when history was made when the Berlin wall went up, we were at many sites of history that most Americans never see. My friends had lived in Guam, Okinowa, Japan. My classmates were white, black, asian, puerto rican...all American Army brats. It is a different, and at times hard, life but I wouldn't have traded it for anything.

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    1. It sounds like you had a super cool upbringing. And I love hearing yet another positive story of being a military brat. It makes me feel so much better! And I think it's fantastic that you and your mom have gotten back in touch with so many people from your past military life. Thank you so much for chiming in. :)

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  7. That sweet little boy, breaks my heart!
    I moved around a lot as a kid, but not for military. We were always saying goodbye to friends and it was hard. But so many of those friends have remained in my life, even if just through emails. I loved the adventure and the idea of having friends all over the country. But you're right, goodbye never gets easier. I like the idea of it not being goodbye, rather just see you later.

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