It’s that time of year again – PSC Season. Many of our friends are moving, many have the similar stories, many have same experiences. I’ve moved six times in 10 years but my friend has me beat by a least a dozen and then some…ok, she has me by 23 more moves. Curious about how she manages so many moves (prior active duty and now military spouse) I asked her to throw down a few thoughts on paper regarding her upcoming move – the unexpected happened – I cried. I cried because she sums up exactly how hard this part of life can be for our kids and for the parents.
I was fine until I read that she buys her daughter stuffed animals to replace friends she’s losing. Ouch. I do the same thing….and my daughters bed is covered in stuffed critters. It was unexpected to “feel” this from another mother who has been through so much, so many moves, so many feelings. She put into words what I feel and how I feel towards my children with every move.
It doesn’t get easier and we don’t get used to it. And we hurt for our kids with every move. Well said, Kristin!
We are moving again in a month. We’ve moved every year for past 3 years…our daughter has never lived anywhere longer than 23 months and this will be her 8th move in her 9 years. The numbers are making me cross-eyed. The numbers mean nothing more than something to shock people, to gripe about or to pat myself on the back over for surviving this shit for so long.
My emotional adjustment process has become predictable now…we get an assignment, I get excited thinking about a new place, I become obsessed with finding the right house in the right neighborhood and then the nightmares begin, and the heartburn and the fear. I have become a chronic teeth (tooth?) clencher—I do it in my sleep, when I’m cooking, cleaning, typing, pretty much always. This habit began when my daughter was born…I guess I think of it as controlled anger management but it’s really not under control, neither are my nightmares.
So, why all the stress? My civilian friends tell me how lucky I am to live in so many places, to travel to meet so many new people and how many great benefits I have as being both retired military and now a spouse. They say, “must be nice” to have the movers come and pack up all of your stuff and deliver it for you; or “must be nice” to get military discounts everywhere…when I think, “must be nice” to have your kid grow up in a place they truly call home, to have your kid make life-long friends they will grow up with and share memories with, to have your kid keep a family doctor and have continuity of care, to meet that amazing teacher who becomes their mentor as they grow, to know have your kid remember their phone number and address without having to wear it on a wrist band in case of emergencies in a foreign country. Must be nice to have family nearby to help with your kids or to have a grandparent to attend school functions. Must be nice…
It was so easy before she was born. We would move around and not care about school systems or neighborhood watches or day care options. We have grown past the panic of day care options (try moving to a new state without knowing anyone and needing to have day care immediately so you can work); and our new phase of concern is finding a school that will challenge our “not a genius but still a good student” kid, to find a house that will feel like a home on a block where there are kids (always a request and always a gamble), to find a good gymnastics gym with coaches who are willing to put the time into my military kid who may not be there for the competitions, to find a vocal coach who will inspire her to continue to sing without pressuring her to prepare for recitals that she dreads…to find a place where she will be happy.
My husband and I have learned the thing that we NEVER would have believed or understood before having Siena—if your kid is happy, you are happy. There is NO question this is a true statement if you are a generous parent. We chose to have military careers, we chose to have a kid who had to endure our crazy lives but she didn’t and we often have to remind ourselves of this and therefore, try to make her childhood happy.
A few years ago we bought a vacation home that we call our home. This was the BEST decision we ever made (as parents). This home has become a happy place for our family and a place where our daughter has a room (forever). We painted her room in the color of her choice (I talked her out of dark purple into a Bali blue), we always measure her height on the door jamb when we visit to see how much she’s grown (and we will never erase or paint over those marks), and we keep lots of personal things we love in this home so it feels like ours always. This home has given us a place to talk about when we move—Siena and I often “walk through” the house in our minds when she is sad about moving. I say, “lets go to the beach house in our minds” and we start at the driveway and describe every room, we describe the walk to the beach, the coffee shop we stop at, the feel of the cold sand on our feet and how much we love watching our dog run on the beach. We talk about what we will do the next time we go home and the people we look forward to visiting when we go. It grounds us and makes us dream about life after the military.
We also talk about the house we want to build and the yard, the barn, the animals we will have and the crops we will plant. We have promised her that she can have bunnies when we retire and that we will get another dog, have a barn and a huge yard where we will grow our own vegetables. This also keeps us going when we are dreading another move.
I guess these are our way of coping with the sucky reality that we have to put our house in a box again and make new friends in a new place…again.
I think the biggest surprise is that it really doesn’t get easier in fact it gets harder. I’m sure it’s akin to the feeling of running a marathon; you probably start off pretty motivated, struggle a little at the half-way point and want to die until you reach the last mile and you are able to push it out to the end. (I don’t run marathons—I just assume this is how it goes). We are at the sucky part…tired, trying to catch our breath before the last push. Our daughter is 9 years old and has made some really nice friends here but we have to move again. She likes her school and her teacher too and we all love our house and neighborhood. We have made the new place sound as exciting as possible without overselling it. She is not stupid and she has learned to see through the b.s. now. In fact, we give her “permission” to hate everything about the move for the first few weeks of telling her. We say that we think it sucks too and that she can be upset, hate it and even complain for a few weeks and then we all need to realize it won’t change and that we need to accept this reality as a family and move on with positive attitudes. It helps all of us. It’s nice to be told you can hate something sometimes.
I’m worried about the stupid things that most people don’t have to think about like I hope we can find a good dentist right away because she is clearly going to need braces. I also worry about how the house will feel when we first walk in the door—will she feel at home or feel sad that it’s not like the last house? I worry if there are kids on our street who are nice. She always asks if there are kids where we are moving and I say, “there must be, there’s a school close by and it’s full of kids.” But, I really don’t know if there are kids, maybe they are all mean kids or older kids or babies (she hates babies), but I hope.
I also go through the guilt phase where I spoil her because I feel bad we are uprooting her yet again. I begin to make excuses to give her presents so I can make her smile. I bought her these stupid shoes with wheels on them (heelys) that she has been asking about for at least 3 years saying I wanted to reward her for getting all As on her report card when really it was because I feel like shit for uprooting her again. Her dad promised her a new bike when we get to our new neighborhood because he feels guilty too. I buy her every stuffed animal she wants to replace the friends she wishes she had or could take with her. I take her and her friends out to the movies and ice cream or to the pool for the day so she can enjoy her friend time as much as possible before we take it away for a while. The guilt can be just as overwhelming as the worry and is always more than the excitement of a new place.
Being a military kid is hard. I don’t know many kids who say they like it but I do know plenty of adults who feel privileged to have been a military kid. I just hope my kid benefits from her unique experiences one day and doesn’t resent us for this insane, nomadic lifestyle.
To learn more about Kristin through her art, photography and blog, visit KMS Photography