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Making Life an Adventure in the Military

Morgan Kelly Burke
March 27, 2012

One Army wife talks about her kids’ resilience after three deployments as part of the Care.com Interview Series

When Julie P. and her sons dropped off her husband for his second deployment, she told them that the upcoming year would be about making memories and having fun - and it was. With trips around Austria, Germany and the States, as well as visits with family, Julie and her three boys have made the most of military life by staying as busy as possible. After three duty stations and three deployments in six years, ­the Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life blogger tells Care.com that she may never be able to replace Daddy or make up for the time he misses while away, but she's doing her best to keep everyone happy, even if "the Army always changes its mind."

Please tell us a little about your military family.

We have been an army family for 6.5 years. We have three little boys, 7, 5 and 1. We have been stationed at 3 different duty stations - two in Germany and one in the US.

How do you feel being a military family has influenced your children's perspectives and experiences, if at all?

I think for them, having Daddy being gone for periods of time is normal. It is what they know. Although my husband has been home since last July so I think the next deployment might be different. They have gotten very used to him being home this time around. My boys have been able to experience things other kids haven't because of our 4 years in Germany. I think that is pretty cool.

Each deployment was different. Deployment #1 was mostly trying to get through each day just at home. Deployment #2 we went on a few trips. It was such a great way to break up the [time]. Deployment #3 I once again had a small baby. We just tried to keep busy to get through it all.

What is the overall greatest challenge of a military family?

I think our 15 month deployment was the hardest thing. When my husband got back, he came home to a 3 year old and an 11 month old he had last seen when he was 3 weeks old. This was an issue for a while. They just did not bond for a long time. I think it wasn't until he was 3 that I can say they were truly bonded. That breaks my heart but when a parent is gone the whole first year of a kid's life, there is going to be a huge adjustment period.

Do you believe military kids have differing needs as compared to their civilian peers? If so, what might those be and why?

Yes, I think they might need more patience sometimes. It is hard when there is only one parent at home. My husband is a very hands-on Dad when he is home. I can really count on him to help so I really feel that loss when he is gone. Take potty training for example. This really is a two parent job, but I had to do it by myself. I didn't have anyone to take over when I got too stressed out about it. My son was probably not potty trained as quickly as he would have been if Daddy hadn't been gone.

And as fun as I make things, I will never become Daddy. They lose out on that part of life during certain times during their childhood. It is a loss and it is like there is a missing piece of the puzzle. At the same time, maybe that will make them stronger kids?

Check out these 10 Tips for Caring for Your Military Child »

How do you support your children through moves and what are their reactions?

We have moved about every two years since 2005. However we don't plan to move again for a while which is good. I just try to make things comfortable for them for the move and make sure they have comforts of their own just as their favorite movies and toys. The biggest challenge is not really knowing anyone in a new place and not knowing how to keep them entertained.

I know my kids say that they miss people but it doesn't seem to hit them hard at this stage. I guess in the future it might. As for making new friends, my oldest seems to do it well on his own, but my middle son has a harder time with it. I do make sure to plan play dates and time with other kids and families.

If your family has experienced any deployments or long separations, how do you and your children navigate the separations?

I think the older my kids get, the harder it might be for them. Reunions have always been good for us, although there has been a little avoidance by my middle son. After a few days he warms up to Daddy again. I think it is his personality. As babies, my kids just kind of stared when Daddy first got home, but they warmed up quickly.

I think staying busy and keeping things fun for them is important. I know some families want to save the fun for when Daddy is home, but I really try to get out there and do fun things with them. It helps the time go by quicker and takes their minds off missing Daddy. When he gets home, we adjust to being patient with a new routine and a new way of doing things.

How might your child(ren) describe life in a military family?

I think that since this is all they know, it is just the way it is. I think they like to see Daddy in his uniform and hear that Daddy goes away to help people. They miss Daddy and sometimes act out when he leaves, but I think they just assume that is how things are supposed to be. My oldest was only 18 months when my husband joined. I think they might be frustrated at the lack of attention when it is just me and we don't have Daddy around.

What pointers would you give/have you offered to other families entering into military life?

Just try to be patient and try to make friends. Take your kids to playgroups, the park or wherever. It will do all of you good to make some friends wherever you might live. And remember that the Army always changes its mind.

Check out the rest of our Care.com Interview Series: Making the Most of Military Childhood »

Julie P. is a coffee drinking, picture taking, book loving Army wife and mom of three young boys, ages 7, 5 and 1. She and her family have spent four of their six years in the army stationed in Germany. She shares her family's story on her blog, Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life. You can find Julie on Facebook and Twitter.

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