Tag Archives: Moving

The Challenges of Raising Military Kids

Raising a family in the military can be a two-edged sword. Yes, your children are still children, but they are also part of a community where they may have to grow up a little faster.

More is expected of military children than most children in the civilian world. Generally, there are always exceptions to the rule; military children are better behaved and more polite than most children. They learn early on how to listen to their elders and interact with all sorts of people.

Changing schools — often

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The girls’ school at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, was run by the Department of Defense. Only one other Air Force Base elementary school in the Continental U.S. was a DOD school. Teaching at such a school was a prime job, and many of the teachers stayed their whole careers at these schools. I think the pay was higher, but parents also played a role in their child’s education.

Many bases we lived at had elementary schools, but they were run by the local school district. Even then, teachers sought out jobs on base. One teacher told me she loved teaching military children because they were nicer than kids in the other district schools.

Moving around the world

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Other aspects of growing up military are not so positive. Our children moved eight times with us, so they went to several different schools. Our girls went to three different elementary schools on the same base.

Moving can be stressful for children who have to leave their friends and possibly extended family. Children are resilient and tend to make new friends faster than their parents, but it is still hard. As a parent, you can help your child through this transition by listening to what they say and don’t say. Pay attention to cues they might not be adjusting. Be encouraging but not pushy. If your child doesn’t want to play soccer, don’t force them. Offer several activities they may enjoy and let them choose.

A good way to transition to a new location is to read up on the location. Find out what the base and the local town, or even state, have to offer. Let each child pick something they want to do to explore their new surroundings. Help them get excited about trying new things that are particular to that area. And be excited about the area yourself. We looked forward to moves because of the adventures each held for us.

Those deployment blues

Deployments are also tricky. Children miss their deployed parent and they react in different ways. Some act out at home and in public, others withdraw and don’t express their sadness. Setting a routine quickly is crucial.

Whenever the Good Chaplain deployed, we had a chick-flick night, where we would put on our pajamas, watch movies, and sleep in the living room on the first Friday he was gone.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Planning special outings, like a drive-in movie or a trip to the swimming pool, help give the kids something to look forward to. Also, having a system to count down the days until the parent comes home is helpful. One friend put Hershey Kisses in a jar to represent the number of days of the deployment. Her son got one Kiss a day, and when the jar was empty, that was the day Daddy would come home. When the return date got pushed back, she simply added more kisses to the jar. I think that only works on younger kids.

Positives of being a military kid

But on a positive note, nuclear military families seem closer to each other in part because of all the moves. We turned moves into vacations and stopped in interesting places. Plus, being twins, our girls always had each other to lean on whenever they experienced something new. But it does seem generally military children are closer to their siblings and their parents.

Military children also get to live in places other kids can only dream about. They meet people from all over the world, and their friends are of all races, colors, and ethnicities. And no one bats an eye.

Kids get to do new things like dogsledding in Alaska, snorkeling in Hawaii, or traveling through three countries to get to school every day, as Tech Sergeant had to do when his family lived in Belgium. Some people never leave their home state.

Mrs. Tech Sergeant dogsledding in Fairbanks, AK

Raising kids in the military opens up more opportunities to shine. It builds confidence. It builds character. It shows the children how adaptable and strong they are in new situations. If they decide to live a different lifestyle in adulthood than a military one, they can. Illinois Girl chose to plant roots. Mrs. Tech Sergeant chose to marry the military and continue to live this particular adventure.

Next up I will be talking about careers for the military spouse.

Until then,

Vicki

What things have worked for you in raising your military kids? Reply in the comments below.

How Military Spouses Cope Away From Family

January 26, 1986, is a day I will always remember. It was the day after the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl. It was also the day the space shuttle Challenger blew up, killing all aboard. But I remember it as the day my in-laws had to rescue us because the Good Chaplain and I both came down with a nasty stomach bug. We couldn’t even get out of bed to feed our three-month-old twin daughters.

The Good Chaplain was not yet in the Air Force Reserves or on active duty. Thankfully, both sets of our parents lived about 20 minutes away and could help. I don’t know what I would have done if we already lived at Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

Yes, I do. I would have called on neighbors and friends to help out. This scenario plays itself out all the time in the military world. I received several calls to please watch the children because the parents were sick. And it will happen. You will find yourself as either the caregiver or the person needing care.

As you prepare for life in the military, knowing it means moving away from family, you frequently ask yourself how you are going to cope in a variety of situations without your mom nearby. It’s scary, especially if it is your first move away from home.

As I did when we went on active duty, if you have children, you mourn the loss of weekends away while grandparents watch the kids. You also mourn the loss of family Sunday dinners, birthday parties, and holiday celebrations. It’s hard because you are leaving all the familiar comforts and going into the unknown once again. We actually moved two hours away from family before coming on active duty, so I experienced a few of those feelings before the big move out of state.

Be prepared for traveling during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to celebrate with each side of your family. We never had less than three Christmas celebrations once we got married, and sometimes more. Once we moved away, it was worse because not only were we traveling and lugging all the presents with us, but we had to drive all over the Chicago suburbs from one house to another. Yep, I’m whining about the hardships of being with loved ones over the holidays.

Also, be prepared to visit family for the majority of vacations. Rarely will you go somewhere exotic for a vacation. I remember one summer when we were traveling to the Chicago suburbs, one of the girls said, “We always say we are going to Chicago, can we actually go into Chicago?” Good point. We gave them a day in the city to do whatever they wanted to do. The family was invited but could not make any decisions on what we would see or do. Our nuclear family also discovered a place called Jekyll Island off the coast of Georgia, and we made sure we spent some time there every year as our own little getaway.

And family visited us frequently as well. We knew who really wanted to see us and who simply used us to stop en route to other places. For instance, when we lived in Georgia and Alabama, we were the stop on the way to Florida. But when we lived in Minot, North Dakota, we knew they were coming to see us.

Family is important to our life in the military. I think I grew closer to my mom once we moved away. I was more intentional about calling her because I knew I wouldn’t see her for a long while. Plans needed to be made, and schedules coordinated. And money was also a factor since we were traveling further. But you manage to make it all work.

Next time I will shed light on the parents’ perspective on all this.

Until then,

Vicki

What was the worst part of moving away from home for you? Comment in the section below.

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Look Through the Windshield, Not the Rearview Mirror

Apparently, moving is on my mind. The Good Chaplain retired two years ago, and I must admit I miss the Air Force. Also, we should be moving right about now, so no wonder I am thinking about it. Not that, after 18 moves, I want to move again.

Anyway, I heard this quote the other day.

And the reason the windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small is because what’s happened in your past is not near as important as what’s in your future.

Joel Osteen

So many of us, when we move, tend to dwell on the past, the last base we were at. Who hasn’t heard or said, “Well, at my last base we…” The previous post is always your favorite, isn’t it?

Rose colored glasses

And we tend to look at our last base through rose-colored glasses. Everything was perfect there. We don’t think about the person who was a real terror to us. Or the hard times we had adjusting to the new climate, surroundings, cultures, or whatever. We forget that when we got to the last base, we felt just as lost as we do at the new station.

While it is good to look at where you came from, it is much more important to look at the opportunities at your new base. I always looked forward to whatever new challenges the following base had in store for me. But, then, I am a positive person.

Not that we shouldn’t look back to learn from our mistakes and recognize the growth we’ve made in the past few years. We just shouldn’t dwell on it. As I look back at the 31 years of being a military spouse, I find something positive about each place I’ve been.

  • Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia — Spiritual growth
  • Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska — Trying new things
  • Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota — How to survive in a small house
  • Vandenberg Air Force Base, California — Creating a community
  • Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama — Amazing history
  • Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska — Finding great friends
  • Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma — Volunteering is fun
  • Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii — Great neighborhood
  • Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi — Hosting Thanksgiving
  • Joint Base Langley-Ft. Eustis, Virginia — Working with the Army

Those are just a few positive things I found at each base. Growth and soul-searching came from each place we lived in. And although I said I loved each station, and I did, I honestly can and will say Eielson will always be my favorite.

When it’s time to move for you, remember your last base with fondness, but please look forward to the new adventures your new base holds for you as well.

Until next time,

Vicki

Moving Time: Some Things for Military Spouses to Consider

It’s that time of year again when military families all over the world are moving, what we call a PCS or permanent change of station. Many moves were delayed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it appears that they are picking up steam now. After 18 moves in 35 years of marriage, I’m glad I am not one of those people packing up and moving on.

As much as I disliked the physical act of moving, a new place and seeing what God had in mind, always excited me. I wondered about our new house, our new neighbors and our new base and town. I was up for the adventure.

Only once was I upset about our house. When we moved to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, I cried. Our house was 900 square feet. My furniture would not fit in the living/dining room combo. And after unpacking boxes in the one set of kitchen cabinets, when I turned the corner into the dining room and found more cartons labeled kitchen, I lost it. I just sat down and cried.

But that was the worst house. I had the opposite problem in Mississippi, where the house was so large that I had to buy more furniture. It all works out in the end.

We started the Good Chaplain’s career moving every three years, but it soon morphed into every two years as he gained rank and responsibility. Most times, we lived on base, except for Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Sometimes we got the choice of two or three houses, but other times we were assigned a house. Except for Minot, the houses were at least adequate.

Before moving time arrives, military members and their families are asked to fill out a ”dream sheet.” This is the place to list the sites you dream about moving to. Or, as I say, the paper the powers-that-be look at and laugh about before they assign you to the base they were going to send you anyway.

Ironically, Minot is the only base we put down as the first choice that we got. The rest of the time, we selected Europe and got Alaska. Or the Good Chaplain would write we would go where God and the Air Force sent us.

Deciding what base to request depends on several factors, including the impact on your family. First, a job in the military member’s career field needs to be available. If you have school-age children, you need to take into consideration the nearby school districts. And that decision leads to whether you are going to live on base or not. It’s a lot to think about. Then, once your choices are made, the military has to agree with you.

The last decision to make is whether or not to have the military assign a moving company to pack up and move your household goods. You can choose to move everything yourself, move some of your stuff yourself, or let the movers move everything. No matter how I begged the Good Chaplain just to let the movers take everything, we ended up hauling some things ourselves. I didn’t want the stress of packing and moving myself, and he wanted to protect our valuables from any damage from the movers. Sometimes it felt like we moved the majority of the house.

Always look at all your options as it comes time to move and decide what is best for your family. Once you have orders, be sure to check out the website of the base you are moving to. You can gather quite a bit of information that way, including about the base housing, schools, and the nearby community. Also, ask friends and neighbors about that base for the real scoop on the base.

Until next time,

Vicki