War is something all of us know about, but military families are the ones who truly understand the consequence of it. They're the ones who are making the greatest sacrifices, on both sides of the border, and they're the ones who are living the realities most of us only read about. Having grown up with a military parent myself, I understand the impact that the military has on a person all too well, and that that impact can be, at times, extremely difficult. However, I also understand that growing up with a military parent makes you a better parent yourself, too.
My dad was no longer in the Navy when I was born, but his time in the military has inevitably impacted both of our lives in numerous ways. I'm incredibly grateful to have had my dad in my life, and I don't take his presence for granted. I know all too well that not everyone who goes overseas comes back. My dad was one of the lucky ones who made it back to his family. His time in the military changed him, and even scarred him (both physically and mentally), but he's been a constant source of strength in my life despite, his hardships and the lingering effects of military service. Being raised by a single dad, especially one who was in the military, is challenging at times, but I've taken away some of the lessons he learned (often times, the hard way) and applied them to my own role as a mother.
Veteran parents everywhere are teaching similar lessons to their own kids, and having been raised by a veteran myself, I understand how very important the following nine things are when it comes to being a parent.
Being a sloppy teenager wasn't really an option for me. My dad made it a point to make sure that I was always prepared and organized. I remember losing my address book (this was before phones that store that sort information were an actual thing), and getting a very long lecture about the importance of organization. Now that I'm a mom though, I get it. If I don't know where all of my boys' medical records or birth certificates or school papers are, our household could crumble. I mean, not literally, but things like vaccination records and school forms are pretty important. If I don't stay organized, our lives would be, without a doubt, more difficult. I mean, they're still chaos, but it's organized chaos, and I'll take an organized mess any day of the week.
You Make Good Use Of Your Time
Being late isn't an option when you're in the military. I mean, it is if you want to be severely punished, but either way, it's just not something that's considered acceptable. My dad is an extreme stickler when it comes to punctuality. I'll never forget the many, many times we were meeting up with teammates before soccer tournaments. When the other parents would show up even 30 seconds late, he was annoyed. That sentiment has carried over in my life, and in a very big way. I am early for every appointment we have, and we always leave earlier than we think we have to, because we don't want to be an inconvenience to others. This is especially important when it comes to being a mom, because getting out the door with kids is no easy feat, and if I didn't plan ahead of time, well, we'd probably be that family that runs chronically late.
You're Used To A Routine
Kids need routines. They depend on them, and when there's a routine in place, the whole family benefits from it. Having been raised by a military dad, I've followed some sort of routine my entire life and, yes, I have benefited greatly from it.
You're Always Prepared
The very reason the military even exists, is so that our country is prepared to defend itself if need be. So, it's understandable that being prepared would sort of be the ultimate military mantra. My dad wouldn't let me take my driver's test until I knew how to change my oil, change a tire, jump start a car battery, and understand a map. Extreme? Yes. Effective? Absolutely. Thanks to him and his expectations, I didn't panic when I got a flat tire in a dark neighborhood on Halloween night when I was 16 years old. I just got out and changed my tire. Since being on my own, and since becoming a mother, I've realized that I've become the person that has 16 different backup plans for literally everything. It's a little obnoxious, but my family has stayed on our feet throughout some incredibly difficult times because I had prepared ahead of time for any and all possible catastrophes.
The military also teaches self-sufficiency and independence. I was an only child, and we lived way out in the country, so I was constantly having to entertain and take care of myself. I might not be Bear Grylls sufficient, but I'm independent enough that I've been able to support myself since I was a teenager. I learned how to be independent from a very early age, and that's something that I hope to teach my children.
You've Got A Great Work Ethic
No one joins the military because it sounds like a sunny walk through the park. I mean, let's face it, the military is no joke, and if you aren't willing and able to work at 110 percent capacity all day, every day, you simply won't survive it. My dad is one of the hardest workers I know, and he's been teaching me the value of hard work every since I can remember. I had a lot more chores and jobs around our house than any of my friends did. I also had an actual job long before any of my friends could even drive. My dad didn't make me work to be cruel, he did it to teach me the importance of a good work ethic, and it definitely worked.
Maybe it's just how I was raised, but where I'm from, we don't walk by someone in uniform without thanking them. We respect and appreciate our military personnel, and we show them our gratitude every chance we get. I understand the sacrifice that military families make, all too well. I might not have had to grow up with my dad being deployed, but I have friends and other family who did, and some of my best friends today are active members of the armed forces.
Some of what my dad saw during his time in the Navy is heartbreaking, and when I think about what some of the men and women of my own generation have seen while deployed, my heart continues to break. I've worked with veterans in a medical setting in the past, and you wouldn't believe some of the stories I've heard. The men and women in our military, past or present, deserve our utmost respect for what they do, so saying "thank you" is the least that any of us could do.
I wasn't someone who had to worry about my family being deployed, though I have worried about many close friends, but I've seen the stress and the worry in my friends' eyes as they talk about their spouse's deployment. I've seen how incredibly thankful and relieved they are when they get to be back in the arms of their husbands and wives, and I've seen how much they take advantage of and truly appreciate their time together as a family. I'm eternally grateful that I've had my dad around in my life, and I don't take that gift for granted. I know that he could have been killed or seriously injured, and I know there are families that have to say goodbye to their loved ones every day because of a war, and I don't take that lightly.
Our family appreciates every little moment we have. Being a parent is hard and stressful and chaotic, sure, but it's also amazing, even when it's hard. I don't take my freedom for granted, and I don't want my kids to either. I want them to understand the sacrifices that have been made so that they can live in a free country, and I want them to appreciate the fact that they have a family to come home to every day, because not everyone get so lucky. No one should take their time with their loved ones for granted, and military families understand that fact better than most.