Military life

Emily said something today that gave me pause. She said, “Mommy, why are we planting a garden? Won’t we just have to leave it behind when we move again? What if the new owners don’t take care of my poor baby lima bean plants?” She was close to tears. Before I could respond, she added, “Maybe we could put all the plants in pots to take with us?”

We are actually supposed to be in this location for 2-4 years, so we’ll definitely have time to plant and harvest a garden at least a few times, and of course just wouldn’t plant if we were going to leave before the harvest. But there are no guarantees in military life, any more than in civilian life, and with military downsizing, there’s an even bigger chance that those 2-4 years may not be a guarantee.

I reassured her about the garden for now, but this got me thinking.

Whenever I get a military discount or hear people saying things like, “Thank you for your service” or about “the sacrifices made by military families,” I always feel a little embarrassed. Fact is, my husband is an engineer. He’s never been deployed, and even when he is, he probably won’t be on the front lines. I feel like a bit of a faker in getting discounts or thanks from people when my husband’s life has never been on the line, more than any average civilian job.

But today, Emily’s comment got me thinking. I found myself thinking that, in some ways, we *have* had to make sacrifices, and maybe there’s more to the “sacrifices of a military family” than just risking life and limb overseas. In the 4.5 years since my husband joined the military, we’ve moved 5 times and lived in 3 different states. That’s not including the 6 weeks we were in Alabama in a hotel room, with the girls sleeping on mats in the closet, cutting off adult access to the bathroom during the night. That was for training, and the girls and I could certainly have stayed home, but we’ve made it a priority to stay together as much as possible.

With all those moves, we’ve been in locations anywhere from 6 months to almost 2 years. It really takes a toll on our friendships. The kids haven’t really been able to develop deep relationships, because it takes time to get involved and to meet kids and then to develop specific relationships… time we haven’t had. Same with us adults. My husband has a few friends who have worked in multiple places/moved with him, which helps, but it’s hard for him, too. And I’ve had trouble making mom friends because, well, it’s hard to find time to get involved, meet people, get to know individual people, hit it off, get up the nerve to start talking outside of whatever the activity is, etc. And usually by then, I’m gone.

Many of the people I’ve met are now my friends on Facebook, and ironically I’ve gotten to know some of them more through FB than I ever did when we were in person together, just because of time.

Facebook is not without its perils, though. When I move on, I get to see posts about happenings in church, or homeschool groups, or just from friends, and I’m sad to see all the great stuff they’re doing that I’m no longer part of.

I’m starting, yet again, the hard work of finding friends in a new place. I’ve joined a homeschool co-op with the girls, and I really enjoy talking to some of the other moms there. We have something in common right from the start (homeschooling), so maybe deeper friendships will develop.

Unfortunately, two of the moms I really enjoy talking to mentioned the other day (separately) that they are looking to move soon. One not too far (next state over), but another to Texas. It feels like a flashback to last summer, when I made friends with another mom who I really enjoyed spending time with, only for her to move to another state and me left to start over again. Both of these moms mentioned the tendency of people to pull back from friendships when you mention that you’re moving, and I know I’ve experienced the same, so I won’t do it to them. But still, I’d like to start a friendship with somebody who I might actually be able to continue to see for a year, at least.

Moving is tough. I like the adventure of starting over in a new place, but the relationships are hard. So, you know what? I don’t think I’ll feel quite so guilty next time I get a 10% discount at the kids’ consignment shop. Because it’s the 5th kids’ consignment shop I’ve shopped at in the last 5 years and I’m tired of looking for new ones, and maybe there is something to this whole “sacrifices that military family members make” thing, after all.

But I’ve heard being a pastor’s wife is even harder, with about as many moves but no discounts. Sorry, pastors’ wives!

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