My children are still little, but at 2 and 3 they have experienced more trials in their short lives than I experienced in the first 20 years of mine. April is Month of the Military Child, and it’s caused me to reflect on my brave little soldiers.
Enduring separation, constant moves, deployments, and the host of other trials military life brings is difficult for adults, but our little ones don’t have the perspective or the life experience we do. To them, everything is new and everything is on a much grander scale.
We can push through, saying to ourselves, It’s just three more months. To our kids, three months might as well be the moon. But our kids soldier on, and they usually do it with a smile on their face.
One of the things that amazes me about our military’s children is how frequently they are the ones inspiring us and getting us through the hard times. When my husband was deployed to Iraq, some nights I missed him so much I could hardly stand it.
On those nights, I would sneak into my daughters’ room, pick up my sleeping baby, sit down in the chair, and just rock her and cry. She was only two days old when her dad left and looked so much like him. She was the tangible connection between my husband, who was 7000 miles away, and myself.
When my husband was flying home for leave, my stupid phone turned itself on silent and I missed his phone call. I hadn’t talked to him in three days. Because I missed the call, I had no idea what time he was flying in. In a fit of extremely immature, at-my-wits-end rage, I threw my phone across the room and collapsed in a frustrated heap on the floor. A few moments later, my two year old wrapped her arms around my neck.
“It’s okay Mommy,” she whispered, “Dad will be home soon.” Why is it the ones we are supposed to take care of often take care of us?
Yes, our children throw tantrums over silly things like wanting juice instead of water. They whine much more than we’d like to admit during the 20-hour car ride between duty stations. Sometimes they pout and won’t talk to their deployed parent on the phone because they are angry Mom or Dad is gone. Our children make us late, try our patience, spill the milk, and pee their pants right as we are leaving the house for an important appointment.
But these are the children that bury their head in your neck and whisper I love you when you are having a bad day. These are the children that revel in “inside camping” in a motel room for a month. These are the children that squeal with glee when their father or mother gets on Skype, rather than crying because it’s been eight months since they’ve seen their parent in person.
These are the children that are the first to run to mom or dad at the airport, and the first to forgive us of our faults. These are the children who grow up and answer, “A little bit of everywhere,” when people ask where they are from, and often make the difficult decision to follow in their parent’s footsteps and join the military themselves.
To all our military children, we salute you. You make our military what it is and give us the resolve to get through another day. We wish we all had your tenacity and good cheer. You are our future, and we love you for it.
Carissa Abrams is an Army wife, mom of two, and cancer survivor. She is currently living in Fort Lee, Virginia where her husband is stationed.