The charity, Little Troopers, was founded by an ex-army solider, Louise Fetigan. Her husband still serves and they have a teenage daughter. In a post this week she flagged up that the month of April is the international month of the military child. I had no idea this existed and felt like I should do a post about it, what with it being so central to our life.
I ummed and ahhed about writing this post, whether people would be interested in it, offended, or roll their eyes at it. In the end I just decided to do it anyway. It is close to our heart as a family and very much central to our lives. We live it and breathe it. We are a military family.
Both myself and Daddy Big Feet had grandparents that served in the military. Daddy Big Feet is part of the Royal Air Force and as part of his job, he goes away sporadically for short as well as long periods of time. We call those long periods in our house, 'Long work'. This was our way of explaining to Little Feet A when she was little that Daddy wouldn't be here for 'lots of sleeps'.
As children, you have no control over what your parents do for work. And so, whatever your parents do, becomes the norm of your life. If your parents are shift workers then children will be used to their parents working any hour of the day and routines adjust accordingly. If you are a military child, you will likely move more times then you can count, have had to make friends with more people then you have to count and will loathe the question, 'Where are you from?'.
There are different types of deployment, some of which are overseas, often in dangerous locations, sometimes for months or a year at a time; others are within the UK, and these can vary in time and location. Both are hard, and come with their own challenges.
As well as long periods of time not seeing or being able to talk to parents, children will often experience not seeing their parents throughout the week, because they may have to work very long hours or shifts. Leaving the house before wake up and returning long after bedtime. Not all jobs are like this of course, but it is not uncommon. Equally, some jobs mean they are working almost every weekend too. Bank holidays are not a given, most of them they are just another working day. Alternatively, some families choose to settle in a certain place and they military parent works away from home, weekly commuting every week to live at their parent unit.
In the space of 6 years we have moved to four houses and have had three new geographic postings. During my pregnancy with Little Feet A, Daddy Big Feet was away for 7 months. We found out we were pregnant 24 hours before he left. Apart from a two week RnR where I had sprouted a bump, he missed the whole thing. When Little Feet A was about 4 months old we moved and he started an extremely busy and high intensity job which continued over to Little Feet B's birth.
It does not get said enough, families of the military are in service too. We go through everything with the serving person, we see the extreme highs and extreme lows. We wear the medals our spouses, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons receive as badges of pride. We make sacrifices and regularly have no say in where we go.
You become hardened to moving, you learn ways that help the process both emotionally and mentally. Our children become resilient, because the have to be. They have friends all over the country and world and have lived in more places than most children will live in their entire lifetimes. And that's ok: they are stronger for it, have seen more for it, experienced more for it, and know vocabulary that others may not have encountered. They are part of an exclusive club that will welcome them with open arms.
This is the month of the military child. They don't ask or want sympathy or pity, that is not what we are striving for. We don't think they are better then any other child who isn't a military one because they aren't.
So what are we saying by celebrating them?
We are saying thank you to every child AND person who ever was a military child.
We are saying we appreciate you.
We are saying we have your back.
We are saying thank you for serving.
We are saying you will bring something different with your life experience to the table.
We are saying you will be a leader of tomorrow.
We are saying that you will come with tolerance, an ability to adapt quickly, make friends with anyone and have a worldly maturity that not everyone has had the opportunity to learn at your age.
And why are we saying this?
Because you are a military child and you are seen.