The following a guest post from my friend Kelly, who I was fortunate to meet in real life at BlogHer 09.
Kelly is a wife and mother of four young children. Residing in Texas, she and her family enjoy playing together, family movie nights, and friendly theological debate. While mostly kept busy homeschooling, baking, cooking, cleaning, or sewing, she does take time to blog at Wisdom Begun. One day she and her husband hope to own a family farm where they will attempt to turn back a hundred years.
Growing Up Brat
My father and mother married a year after high school. During that time my father enlisted in the military. When I was still very young he went through Warrant Officer training and became a helicopter instructor pilot. I have many photos of me as a young child wearing my orange “I love a WOC” t-shirt. Eventually he would retire after 20 years of faithful service as a Chief Warrant Officer 4.
We did not live on or near base for some of our military years. My father was last “stationed” at a small National Guard Unit in Florida. We were church members, but as there were no other military families in that congregation for quite a while, no one could quite comprehend what our lives were like. Very few families could identify with such a demanding job. Yet there were many blessings to growing up in the military. I saw a different side to life.
I had never known a civilian life. I only knew a life in which dad was gone a lot but we always felt his love. A life in which it was normal to hear a helicopter flying over our house continuously at 11 o’clock at night and realize hey! that’s my dad. Of course being overwhelmed by the spotlights he shown on us as we stood out on the driveway might not be par for the course. But still, that was life. Our life consisted of shopping at the commissary and getting 20 something boxes of cereal for less than cost. Or running around the PX at nine years old, searching for my father to tell him that mom was in labor and on her way to the hospital. Or, missing your dad for 4 weeks because he is down in Miami rescuing hurricane Andrew victims in his helicopter.
I look back now and question myself as to whether or not I would have it any other way. I would not. You remember all those little anecdotes I shared with you earlier? Those gave me my view on life. I know now that Dad worked so very hard in a job which many may not understand. He worked whenever he was needed whether that be in the middle of the night or during the day or for weeks on end with no break. He is a very disciplined and orderly person. The Army taught him that. My mother tirelessly raised a houseful – and by houseful I mean 9 children – and homeschooled us as well. She held down the fort as Dad went on various missions and trainings that left him necessarily absent. I have seen very few women who are as strong mentally as she is. She never ever complained to anyone about having to parent by herself and rarely asked for outside help. I always hope to emulate her ability to get done what has to get done.
As for me, I learned that no family is the same and that is okay. I learned teamwork. I learned respect for what was needed to protect our country, often at the cost of spending more time with one’s family. Growing up without my dad around all of the time was hard at times but I knew why it was necessary. I learned respect for our country and our flag that is sadly going away.
In reality growing up in the military really isn’t all that different. I was still a little girl who loved to play dolls and ride my bike outside. Our family laughed and played together perhaps even more so than any other family. Watching sports, eating out, visiting the zoo: we made time for that. Other families may not have gotten up at 3am to view the Hale Bop comet through night vision goggles, but we still enjoyed our time together.
That’s just how life was.