The house was calm for the first time in a few weeks. It felt weird. My military kids were playing together on the living room floor with all of their army toys for kids we purchased to help them cope with their daddy being away. I was plopped on my ottoman with my hands wrapped around a hot cup of coffee.
In the weeks prior, things were chaotic. My husband was preparing to deploy, which meant the house was a mess with military gear and take out boxes from the Thai place flying everywhere.
Now he was gone.
At the beginning of deployment, I never know what my next move should be. Do I carry on as status normal? Do I wallow in my misery? Do I channel my emotions into cleaning the house like a neurotic woman who has no idea what to do with herself?
Answer: none of the above.
Life lessons military kids will teach you.
Instead, I looked to my son, who seems to have the most wisdom in challenging times. Some of the greatest life lessons come from military kids. You just have to give them the opportunity to share them with you. And open yourself up to listen to their wise advice.
Hang onto the routines.
Military life is filled with crazy amounts of change: new homes, new schools, new friends, keeping a budget on a military income, and of course, a parent frequently coming and going for both short and long periods of time. Change is hard, and people are creatures of habit. Routines and consistency give us comfort. A cup of milk in the morning takes my son to his happy place. So does reading a book before going to bed.
Knowing what to expect helps minimize the stress out of daily life. Hang on to the routines. Cling to that morning cup of coffee and go to your happy place. Read a book or do something that makes you happy before you go to bed. Military kids thrive on routines, so why not take a hint and follow their lead: give yourself a morning routine and a bedtime routine.
Don’t assume you know everything.
As a parent, I have a tendency to project my own feelings and emotions onto my kid. I think “Oh, he’s going to have a really hard time when his dad leaves.” Or “He’s going to act out a lot during this deployment.”
What I really mean is, “Oh, I’m going to have a really hard time when he leaves.” I have to be careful not to project what I believe my experience will be onto what my child’s experience will be.
Sometimes you have to wait and see. Sometimes the service member will leave and the transition will be relatively easy. Military kids are incredibly resilient and they go straight into a new normal. Sometimes not, but I’ve learned to not assume something will go a certain way until it actually does.
Being apart doesn’t mean you love any less.
It doesn’t mean you don’t think of them, or don’t still keep all the love for them stuffed snugly inside your heart. Kids teach you that you can love someone regardless of distance. You can even grow that love during deployment and other separations. Kids love their parent whether they are near or far.
“Sometimes you have to be apart from people you love, but that doesn’t make you love them any less. Sometimes you love them more.” –Nicholas Sparks
Change is hard, but change is growth.
Military life is full of changes and it’s not always easy to find a new normal. But change is also a huge opportunity to learn about yourself and grow.
You learn how to feel big emotions and how to process them. You learn how to feel overwhelming excitement, disappointment, fear, joy and happiness and share that with each other. You learn how to cope with life. You learn how to turn a bad situation into a good one.
Together through big military life challenges–we grow.
It’s okay to cry.
When the emotions and overwhelm build up, it’s okay to have a big meltdown. Even as an adult. Really it’s okay. Weaping into your morning cup of coffee as you stare at your service member’s face frozen on Skype doesn’t make you weak. It allows you to release all the emotions and move forward. Let’s all take a lesson from the kids and enjoy a good cry, regardless of how trivial it may seem.
My kids played. I cried.
That’s how we rolled that deployment. My kids didn’t make a big deal about it. I wanted to cry about it. We each wanted to handle it differently and that’s okay.
My son walked over to me, sitting on the ottoman. “Don’t cry mama,” he said. He reached for my hand and pulled me onto the floor to play and helped me transition to our new normal. Military kids are amazing and resilient. I’m so glad my kids are here to teach me all the lessons. Where would I be without them?
Want more on military life?
- Best Toys and Resources for Military Kids During Deployment
- How to Respond When Your Military Child Feels Anxious
- How Strong Military Spouses Rock Deployment
- The Biggest Mistake a Military Spouse Can Make
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of MSB New Media & Unilever. The opinions and text are all mine.