We parents try so hard to be good teachers. We repeat toothbrushing instructions endlessly. We have strict directions on use of the word “suck.” We multiply fractions the old fashioned way—or look it up on YouTube.
Some days we end up learning more from our kids than we actually teach them.
At the Spouse Experience at Joint Base Lewis McChord, we asked participants what they had learned from their military kids. Their “lessons” surprised and enchanted us. We hope you will like them too.
Make friends like you are still in Kindergarten. Military kids aren’t careful about friends. They know you gotta get ‘em while the getting is good. Sometimes we military parents have to make friends the same way. Fast. Friendly. Forever—at least it feels that way.
“No” can be used as a complete sentence. There is a profound and simple truth in the world that during deployment the word ‘no’ can be used as a complete sentence. Military kids know this. They are waiting for us to figure it out.
Strykers are way cool. Live or work around the military long enough and you get used to all the equipment. Ho hum.
Kids make us see it again with fresh eyes. Aircraft carrier. Huge! Helicopters sweeping over the playground? Epic! Marine plane that takes off vertically from the deck of a ship? No way! Moms and dads who operate those things? Awesome badness! Let me tell my whole class!
Family comes first no matter what. Military kids have two worlds—family and everyone else. When you spend your whole life moving every year, you can’t ignore your mom telling you that when all your friends are gone you will still have your brother and that he has to be in your wedding no matter how often he picks his nose.
Investments in your family as an adult tend to pay off, too, no matter where you live.
Sucky attitude means that you cannot participate lest in rub off on others. We teach our kids that a bad attitude is enough to send you right to your room for a little down time.
Sometimes as adults we need to learn when to put our attitude under wraps, when to take it out and when it is OK to keep our attitude at home until another day.
Still go for it, even if you are afraid. We ask our military kids to leave everything they know and go to new houses, new schools, new soccer teams, new music lessons. And they do.
They square their little shoulders and march forward because that is what they know. Fear isn’t a good reason to stop moving forward in the right direction. If they can do it we can do it.
Wait long enough and even Christmas comes. Sometimes a deployment seems like it will never end. Kids often seem to have an easier time letting deployment pass. They have their Must Have Parent at home and they know that their Must Do parent will come home–maybe even before Santa!
New people and places are… interesting! Kids pick up every nuance from their parents. If we freak over a PCS, they will too. If we express an interest in something or someone that is new, they often follow our lead. Picture books, field trips, movies, online videos all make a new place seem like a good idea.
Plenty of high fives go a long way. Military kids will take a high five for just about anything. Ate your toast? High five! Brought your backpack from the car? High five! Sing every verse of the Star Spangled Banner (or just carry the tune)? High five!
We military parents could use a few more high fives in our own lives, a little positive reinforcement, another attagirl or two.
We could learn that lesson from our kids–because that is exactly the kind of thing they want us to know