April is the month of the military child. It’s the month that we dedicate to recognizing the sacrifices that these amazing kids make each day. So often we fail to realize that military children are serving right along with their parent. When the house is packed and we are sent off to another duty station, our kids are forced to start over again. This isn’t just once or twice in their childhood. They are asked to do this every 2-3 years.
We ask them to leave behind the friends at one duty station to make new ones at the next one. Don’t forget to throw in a 6 month to a year long deployment for a parent as well. A military child’s life is in constant transition. It’s hard to settle into life and enjoy the normal childhood activities when you know it’s only temporary. Somehow, military children are able to do just that though.
So how do we represent such a diverse and amazing group of children? What image helps to relay the resiliency of these children?
The official flower of the military child is the dandelion. Why? The plant puts down roots almost anywhere, and it’s almost impossible to destroy. It’s an unpretentious plant, yet good looking. It’s a survivor in a broad range of climates. Military children bloom everywhere the winds carry them. They are hardy and upright. Their roots are strong, cultivated deeply in the culture of the military, planted swiftly and surely. They’re ready to fly in the breezes that take them to new adventures, new lands, and new friends.
Experts say that military children are well-rounded, culturally aware, tolerant, and extremely resilient. Military children have learned from an early age that home is where their hearts are, that a good friend can be found in every corner of the world, and that education doesn’t only come from school. They live history. They learn that to survive means to adapt, that the door that closes one chapter of their life opens up to a new and exciting adventure full of new friends and new experiences.
I don’t think there could be a better representation of our children. When I see a dandelion, I see a beautiful flower that I used to make wishes with as child. Now, those same flowers that I used to wish with represent my two daughters and the sacrifices they make daily.
What is important to realize is that while these children make sacrifices more often than the average child, this life helps set them up for achievements as well. Our kids are extremely resilient. They are capable of adapting to almost any environment. They understand that life isn’t always going to go their way. Patriotism is instilled into them from birth. When the National Anthem plays, they know to stand with their hand over their heart and unless you are singing it then you don’t open your mouth. To our kids, the flag is much more that a piece of cloth. More often than not, they have seen their parent weep over the loss of a friend who lays in flag draped coffin.
My kids are 5 years old and 3 years old. They have spent the last two and half years living in a foreign country away from all family. They have learned to make their friends into family. They not only speak English but are now fluent in Dutch as well. They have said goodbye to friends who had to move on to the next duty station. They have welcomed in new children who are just starting their transition into this duty station. They have made the 9+ hour flight back to the United States multiple times and see it only as an adventure. I have had to tell them that we will be leaving this place in a short while and move on to wherever the Air Force sends us next. With that explanation, I was met with excitement for seeing and living somewhere new.
Military children are special. They experience more within the first few years of life than most do in a lifetime. I think that every month should be the month of the military child because without their sacrifices, their mom or dad couldn’t serve their country. Take time to celebrate your military child and don’t forget to “Purple Up” this month. I’m making it a point to wear purple every Friday this month to show my love and support of my two, and the other almost 2 million, military children.
If you have military children who are struggling with transitions then please ask what resources are available on your base. You can also reach out to Military One Source. They are a great support network that I have personally used as well. Military life is hard on us all but especially hard on our children. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
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