Growing up in a military family has had a huge impact on my life and that of my siblings. Sure, it was cool to see different places and I think that just happened to compliment my personality, but for my sister it was different. She had a much harder time picking up and leaving. And my brother was too young to really know, and we haven’t moved since he’s been old enough for it to affect him. Growing up as a military brat affects different kids in different ways, but I think there are a lot of things we can agree on.
1. It influences your ability to make and keep friends. You never had a terribly difficult time making friends, because we usually moved to places that had a heavy military presence and it’s always easy to make friends with people who are in the same boat as you are. But if you didn’t, you probably had a hard time finding people you had things in common with. You spent a lot of time feeling totally out of place. It’s nearly impossible to maintain any sort of relationship with anyone. You’d make friends and then you’d move, only to realize you’d probably never hear from them again. And that’s something we had to buck up and start expecting to happen at a really young age. We stopped getting sad about it, we stopped worrying about it, and we stopped trying to keep it together when after a move. And that had a serious impact on how we handle friendships now that we’re older. There are very few people we have an emotional attachment to outside of immediate family. Which, to be frank, has really turned out well. We have a low tolerance for drama or putting more into relationships than what we get in return. If it falls apart, we don’t bother to mend it because we just don’t care. When it comes to true friendships, there are literally 2 or 3 people we can really put in that category. Otherwise, we have our family and our siblings.
My dad did always say in the end, we’d have each other, and I cherish that more and more every year.
2. It made it difficult to find/learn who you wanted to be because you’re constantly being shaped by different environments, social circles, and standards. It’s a lot easier for people who had more stable upbringings when it came to developing and finding themselves, figuring shit out, and feeling comfortable in their own skin. Every few years we’d move and we’d have to put personal growth on hold for a period of readjustment and an assload of firsts to deal with all over again. I mean, that in itself played a huge role in who we turned out to be and how we handle certain situations, which is a good thing, but we had a really difficult time being comfortable with ourselves because of it. Every few years we had to prove ourselves again, we’re labeled the “new kids” again, we had to get used to a new way of life again, we had to make friends again, we had to fit in again, etc. And that’s a lot!
3. You’re fine being without your parents. (or… not.) Our military parents worked so much when we were younger and were always late for dinner, missing dinner, missing holidays, or they’d just be gone for months at a time on a boat somewhere, or deployed to another country. And it wasn’t something we even understood at the time. Like, we knew they were on a boat, or we knew they were working, but we really just sang the “daddy’s late” song at the dinner table because we thought it was funny. The nights we had to say goodbye were the best because when we got home, we ate tons of junk food and got to eat dinner in front of the TV. Which, turns out, was our mom’s way of keeping us distracted from what was actually a really sad and nerve wracking day. Being without a parent for a few months at a time (sometimes way, WAY longer) is difficult, but we adjust. I think the time they spent away, whether they were underway or just working late, was more difficult for them than it was for us. It’s certainly hard to feel as though you’re doing life by yourself, but that’s something that just comes with the territory.
4. When it stops, it’s confusing. Our entire life has been “Military Military Military”. Graduations – aka parades – pinnings, waiting for boats to dock, moving, wondering where we’ll go next, leaving friends, making friends, new schools, new surroundings, new homes, new opportunities, and so much more. So if we get stationed somewhere with a huge military presence, a lot of people try to extend or they try to get stationed on the same base or somewhere near it so their family doesn’t have to pick up and move again. But after a 5 years or so we get antsy. We start feeling like we want to move again because that’s all we’ve known and this place is getting boring. We can legitimately feel ourselves getting a bit stir crazy at the thought of living in one place for the rest of our lives. We quickly realized we couldn’t handle the commitment. From living situations, jobs, and career plans, to relationships. We might get a little depressed. Every second we aren’t working or in school, we’re running to the nearest beach, mountain or city in an effort to find some sort of escape or change of scenery. It sometimes takes years to figure out what we want. After “life in the military”, it sometimes takes a lot of reflection and acceptance to understand that living a stable life with a solid foundation is a good thing. Having a solid career, raising children in one home, having a husband or wife with a solid work schedule and you having the same.. it’s a good thing!
5. It opened our world to new possibilities, and that was… Overwhelming. Many people growing up in one area find that their interests and prospective career goals line up with what’s available or popular around them. A lot of people we graduated with have since joined the military, they’re fishermen, nurses, doctors, or farmers. We had seen so many different parts of our country before we even turned 18, that we knew there was more out there for us than staying in the town our parents live in. Growing up the way we did, we didn’t see many different examples of work. We saw a lot of Military which isn’t what we all wanted for our futures. We really had no idea what was involved in any particular field, or what was even out there to begin with. What could we love enough that we could stand to do it our entire working lives? Did we want to move away? Keep bouncing around?Did we want to live with our significant others and stay where we were? What did we value in life? One or both of our parents left home and saw the country/world with the military – we didn’t want to stay home. Or maybe we did? Some of us have since answered all these questions for ourselves, some earlier than others, and maybe some of us haven’t at all. But the uncertainty and tendency to question everything can in part be blamed on the lifestyle.
As crazy as it was, we did it all together and we feel like we are part of a much stronger family dynamic! And we can attribute that to the kind of childhood we had.