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Military life in a word is flexibility, to say the least.

My perspective as a child

During one of my family’s time of moving to another city, another school. I saw my birth certificate. It stated I was born at the Naval Hospital in Chelsea, Mass. My mother told me the story of my birth–my dad almost missed it. He served as an Electrical Engineer and worked on the “Big Ship” and made it home in time for my birth.

Mom told me we moved every three years on a dime.  I lived with my grandparents when my father was gone; it was not very fun. There are memories of my mom leaving boxes packed in the extra bedroom for the next move. When I got older, my dad retired from Navy and worked at Texas Instruments working as an Electrical Engineer. Guess what?! Our family moved every three years!

In my elementary school years, going to a new school was not a big deal. As I got into high school, it was terrible. I have a younger sister and brother. I can remember many yelling matches between my parents when my dad got his “moving orders.” My sister and brother seemed to do fine with all the moving.  They made friends easily, became part of the “popular” crowd and were very social. I, on the other hand, was quiet and felt sorry for myself. I didn’t make friends easily and always teased. I just wanted to stay in one place and have that one best friend. I have never had that one best friend because our family never stayed in one place for more than three years.

My parents had conversations with us kids explaining “flexibility.”  I vividly remember rolling my eyes whenever it came up. My sister and I thought our parents were “dumb” because why would they do this to their kids, “Don’t Parents Understand a family doesn’t move every three years.”  I told them to stay in one place for years and never move.  We kids hated moving, always packing and unpacking, new schools and new cliques.

I remember one awful moment during middle school.  Being new to the school, I was standing in line waiting for the bus to come to take us home. Three girls slapped me in the face and said I didn’t belong. My sister just stood there and didn’t stop it.  Riding back on the bus, I told myself that when I had kids, I would not move until they had graduated high school and started college. I was not going to allow my kids go through all that moving and change. My parents found out about the incident but did not say anything about the fight. I wished I was an adult and out of the house.

My perspective as an adult

Many years later, I was dating my future husband and planning our wedding and life together.  I voiced my wish to not moving while raising kids. I stated that once the kids started middle school and high school we were not moving. I thought not moving would keep everything stable and smooth.  My husband’s job offered him a job in another state, but we didn’t take it.  Very quickly I realized I needed to change my thought process and do some rethinking. My thinking was harming our kids. There is nothing wrong with moving to new places. It does teach flexibility, social skills and personal growth. I realized If I had stayed in one place doing the same thing over and over, I may have become stagnant.  Moving can be difficult but I have learned that growing over the years is far better than fighting and arguing. My four children have learned life is better being flexible and change is inevitable. As it turns out, my four are the best examples of flexibility.

We have four children and in-laws who are active in the military today. There have been several deployments and numerous moves. My husband and I have watched each development through excited eyes for our children. They approach each move with excitement for what lies ahead. We have two 2-year-old granddaughters.  Their parents cannot wait to show them the world and do not look at this ever-changing, moving military life as an obstacle.  They see it as a learning experience.

Lessons learned along the way

Becoming a military family (by children or spouses joining) is a life changing experience and a challenging mind set. The choice is whether to embrace it, go the distance and grow or to “buck” the experience. We all have one life experience to make the most of it and enjoy it.

I look back and remember my childhood and wish that I embraced it, not fought my parents and learned more than I did. God is teaching me how to be flexible through my children!!  My suggestion to military families is be very encouraging.  Military life can be hard.  It is also amazing, with many opportunities for those who choose to be flexible.  If you are parat of a military family and long for support, join Military Mama Network on Facebook.

Vicki White

writing from 3 generations of service to our country