Monday, December 2, 2013

Military Monday: Military Kids

A different kind of helicopter parenting...8 Wing CFB Trenton 2010
There has been a lot of discussion on the internet lately about the current generation of kids. How this generation, the product of so-called 'helicopter parents' (see this article and others like it), are incapable of caring for themselves. How they need mommy and daddy to help them do everything, from folding their laundry, to helping them pass university courses.

As an answer to this...I give you the military child.

I have to say, I scoffed at these helicopter parents articles. Yeah, there's a few parents I've met in my years as a mom that would qualify, but the vast majority don't and won't. I'm sure it's partly because it would drive me crazy to hang out with parents like this. My friends kids' have chores. They participate in family discussions. They work for their allowances. If they get a failing grade, they lose privileges.

Part of the reason I know few qualifying helicopter parents is because, by necessity and opportunity, most (but certainly not all) of my close friends are part of military families.

So what makes military kids different?

1) Children in military families learn quickly that things don't always turn out the way they want. Often their first bed is a car seat, and they are on the road to a new home before they've even comprehended their old one. They say goodbye to their friends frequently. They don't get to choose
Dad just before
departure on deployment
their homes or their schools. The service branch their parent belongs to chooses those things, and chooses when they will change.

2) Military kids get big responsibilities on their shoulders early in life. I remember my three year old 'reading' to her newborn sister so that I could put her two year old brother down for his nap. Only a few feet away from me, but she understood that it was her responsibility, and she accepted that. When Dad is away a lot, someone has to step up to help out with other chores too, like lawn-mowing, dishes, taking out the garbage. As one military spouse says, "(Our) children are often in the position of learning to cope with change, they learn to make the best of difficult circumstances, and above all they learn the necessity of sacrifice for a greater good. Children in military families learn independence through adversity; being asked to contribute their skills and talents to the function of the family unit, to accommodate the absent family member."

3) Military kids understand the realities of military life. They hear the news. They know their parent is in danger. They endure disappointment when Dad isn't there to see them perform, to praise report cards, to compete in sports. They cry. They are scared. And they keep going. They get through it.

One of my good friends recently said in a Thanksgiving oriented Facebook post: "Our girls have amazed me with their ability to keep going, not moping around, not waiting for things to happen to them, but going out and making life happen, living it to its fullest. I don't know if I would've been as strong at my age."

4) Military kids have great role models. Parents and other families around them that understand the value of hard work. Immediate role models that don't always want to do what they have to...but they do it anyway.

Now mind you, not every military family encourages their kids to get out there, make mistakes and keep working until they succeed. Some parents take their fear of their spouse's job and reflect it backwards. Their family environment, something they can control, becomes the outlet for something they can't control, ie) their spouse's environment. PTSD can play a big role in over-protective military family parenting (a post for another time...).

But the majority of military kids that I've met in my 25+ years associated with the military are strong, resilient, capable, and hard-working. They're kids that are able to deal with whatever life throws at them...because, well, life has thrown a lot at them already. Their experiences help them prepare for life without mom and dad.

What are your thoughts? Do you know strong, resilient military kids? Or perhaps you know some helicopter parents?  Let me know your experiences in the comments below!

Til next time,


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