Face it, being the child of a military service member is like living in a sitcom that never got the memo it was supposed to be a drama. Strict discipline, the frequent moves, and the whole 'serving your country' vibe hanging over their head like a drill instructor with a caffeine addiction... It isn’t always an easy life, but it’s never boring.
The Great Moving Saga
Our story begins with the infamous 'PCS' (Permanent Change of Station), also known as 'Parents Can't Settle.' Every few years, just as kids finally learned the names of more than three classmates, the news would come down: "We're moving!" Orders are usually followed by a mad scramble to pack their lives into boxes, say goodbyes to friends (again), and prepare for the next episode of "Where is My Bedroom?"
The best part? Garage sales. Nothing screams 'normal childhood' like selling your possessions on the military version of Facebook Marketplace because they don't fit in the moving truck. But hey, on the bright side, they became minimalists’ way before it was cool.
The Uniformity of Uniforms
Ah, yes, the uniform. Their parents wear them, and in a way, so do they. While their parents have cammies and boots, they have the unspoken rule of 'dress to impress... or at least not embarrass.' This means no wild haircuts (sorry, dreams of being a punk rock star) and no questionable fashion choices (looking at you, cottage core goth phase. My daughter still can’t explain that one to me).
Being the new kid in school can be rough but try being the new kid in school ten times. Military kids can have enough 'first day' experiences to write a pub. The trick seems to be to blend in... which is difficult when they’ve got the accent of your last station and a lunchbox that screams 'tourist.'
There can be perks. When living overseas they get to say things like, “Yeah, I spent my weekend in Paris.” It sounds cool until you realize it was a field trip about World War II, and they spent most of it grounded for trying to climb the Eiffel Tower. Just because we like it doesn’t mean it translates for our teenagers.
The Language Barrier
Growing up in a military household means learning a whole new language, and often more than one. Acronyms… so many acronyms. It's like living in a world where everyone speaks in code, and they're just trying to figure out if " The PX" is a store, a person, or a new gaming console. Bonus points if your kids are later in a different service than you, so you’re both speaking gibberish. Damn Navy and their weirdo rates. The look on their civilian friends' faces when they casually dropped terms like 'CONUS' or 'MRE' in conversation is occasionally pretty fun to watch, though.
The Secret Superpower
Amidst all the chaos, one thing becomes clear; being a military brat can give them a superpower – adaptability. Sure, it occasionally comes with trauma, but even Superman had his challenges. They can make friends in a flash, learn new cultures like a pro, and handle change better than most adults. They might not have had a traditional childhood with a hometown and lifelong friends, but they do have adventures, living in countries some people only see in textbooks, and learning resilience in ways that only a military kid can.
The Real MVPs
As a service member, it is important to remember that all joking aside, our kids do go through a lot. Everything in life is a trade, and they make that trade because you said so, not because they chose it. Make sure to take the time to explain things to your kids, rather than putting on a campaign cover at home. Be patient and use that discipline the military gave you to show them kindness. After all, we don’t enjoy the military yanking us around, and that was our choice.