Military families must stand firm

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By The Staff



In the Court of Mommy Opinion at our bus stop, I have been judged and found wanting. This time I committed the unpardonable act of making my freshman in high school (gasp!) walk to school.

That’s right. He missed the bus so I made him walk 1.62 miles across flat ground under a blue sky to get to school.

I know, I know. I ought to be shot. Or at least yelled at.

“But what if he is late!” asked the lawyer mom.

“Then he’ll be late,” I said. “It’s his life. His tardiness. His detention. He’ll deal with it.”

The moms exchanged looks. For a minute I thought one of them would jump in her minivan and rescue Sam’s poor widdle feetsies. But his feetsies are bigger than mine. He’s taller than me. I think he can run a mile wearing football pads in, like, six or seven minutes.

“I told your husband last week that I drive by the school every day at 6:45,” the social worker mom told me. “But your husband said he wasn’t even going to tell Sam it was an option!”

I smirked. Brad and I know our kid. With an offer like that, Sam would be chauffered to school by the neighbor every day. That isn’t part of our family plan.

Then the social worker mom instructed me on how the synapses of a high school kid aren’t fully connected. Finally she sniffed and declared, “You military parents are so much tougher on your kids.”

I went home and spent the rest of the morning wondering if she was right. Are we military families tougher on our kids than other people? Are we too tough?

I’m sure some of us are too tough. Just like so many civilian parents, I’m sure some military parents veer toward child abuse or child neglect. But we aren’t really talking about that here. We’re talking about whether our military culture makes parents demand too much of their kids.

I know that Brad and I do expect a lot from our kids. I don’t mean good grades or sports or that kind of thing. I’m saying that our military life is so demanding that we expect/need/require our kids to be as capable as they possibly can be. When they were toddlers, we taught them to dress themselves. As preschoolers they set the table and picked up their toys and stayed close to us at the airport overseas. Over the years they’ve set up their own play dates and completed their own homework and remembered their own sports equipment and cleaned the kitchen and ironed shirts and I don’t know what-all. I just know that every year added a little bit to what we expected them to do for themselves.

I don’t call that particularly tough. I don’t think it is too much to ask a 14-year-old to set an alarm clock. To get himself dressed. To get himself on the bus and to school on time. That isn’t cruel. That is teaching self-efficacy. Our goal is that by the time our kids are 22, they won’t need anything from us but love and encouragement.

One of the things I’ve learned from building my life among military families is that happiness doesn’t necessarily come from an easy life. Instead it seems to come from knowing yourself to be an effective person. To know that you can act and make things better. To know that you are a doer among doers.

It is hard to raise that kind of kid in our helicopter parent society. It’s hard to listen to the moaning and groaning of a teenager and to stand firm. But we military families, perhaps even more than other families, know that we must.

It’s a practical necessity. We expect our military families to be capable of handling more than the average civilian family. To be able to do that, the family must be a functioning unit much like every other functioning squadron or battalion or department. Every member must pull his own weight or the unit suffers.

Military family life is too much for one person to pull alone. Husbands, wives, grandparents, kids—we need everyone at their efficient best. And that is not too much to ask.