We celebrated our eldest child’s birthday this past weekend. This was his first year of middle school, and there were many changes and new dynamics he had to face independently. Not only did he begin to enter into a new stage of adolescence, but it is one of the most awkward, unfamiliar stages that can strike challenges of unknown territory and identity searching. In addition to wrapping up the last quarter of school, a pandemic enters the scene.
You’d think, “Oh my, that is a lot for one kid to take on all at once.”
However, he took on even more than that this year. His dad was called to serve overseas on a European mission last fall. So, he has not seen him for seven months now. He not only hasn’t seen him the last half year, but he just identified something the day of his birthday which was also brought to my attention. After a little conversation in the car about dad’s absence for his birthday this year, we realized he wasn’t present last year, either. Dad was at the National Training Center in California, and we know that training happens right before a deployment. Not only that, we started to back date the last few birthdays and realized it had been since 2016 that dad had been physically present to celebrate a birthday with him.
My heart shattered into a million pieces as I digested that idea; I mean, as I really let it sink in. Did this young boy really celebrate four consecutive birthdays without his dad by his side to witness him blow out candles?
It has certainly been an arduous school year for this newly-turned 12-year-old military child. Something many of you may understand and relate to. Although concerned, I am proud and find his attitude and character to be admirable. Now, don’t get me wrong, he is still a young boy and has his moments and areas to sharpen. However, WOW, what a pretty awesome kid to be able to do life with.
As most of us may be aware, April is the month of the military child. In honor of this, we are wearing the color purple to celebrate their endeavors and sacrifices as military children in their positions. However, as we can observe, the pandemic has taken a much greater hit to to the point that even birthdays are not celebrated the same. So, we expect this remembrance and honor might unintentionally be overlooked or pushed aside.
During these transitional times (in addition to the already transitional lifestyle they are asked to live), are we asking our children: “How are you doing today? How is this affecting you? What is affecting you and how can I be a sound voice among the many that demand space in your mind?”
Our military children, from infants to teens, are being asked more often than not to meet new faces, build new relationships, adapt to new environments, learn new patterns and rhythms and also grasp how they are growing as an individual. Most of us may not take notice right away, or even consider the complexity of their positions, but we are grooming some resilient little people.
I encourage each of us to take time to reflect, possibly even write down and journal, on what each of our children have endured and will continue to endure during this active military lifestyle. Because let’s be honest, they also have stress. Nonetheless, for those of us already there; moving forward, may we encourage one another and our children by reminding them how amazing they are for adapting to this active Army lifestyle. They may need the added encouragement every now and then.
In honor of our resilient military children, may we gather to wear the color purple for the last few days of April in their honor.
This one is for you, our sweet, strong, growing military child.
Lori Ann PALOMARES is an Army spouse and Killeen-area resident.