The positive pregnancy test first confirming my daughter’s existence brought a host of emotions and a long list of baby gear needs.
As I walked through Target holding a scan gun, I felt overwhelmed. The items ringing in would be helpful, but the thing I needed most was support and there was no way to add that to my registry.
I decided to bluntly ask for it. As friends and family gathered to eat cake and shower our family with love, I thanked them for the gifts and passed out envelopes. Each one held a tree charm and a prayer. I asked that whenever they came across this tree, they would pray for us, check in on us, or send encouragement.
Several years have passed since the baby shower, and I wonder how many tree charms are still out there. Despite our many military moves, my husband and I have felt the love and encouragement we needed, and I am so grateful.
However, now more than ever, I am seeing that need in my daughter.
As result of our transient life, those who have loved her from the start show their support from a distance. I often refer to pictures in her baby book when telling her who sent the gift or who on the phone is asking about her. When friends come to visit, she cues into those who tell stories of her from long ago and she does everything possible to make her pre-adolescent self known.
Our daughter is daily branching out more on her own, and she is looking for support outside of our family. My husband and I strive to create a strong, loving and honest relationship with her, but we are not enough. We are not always available and there are times she does not want to turn to us. In those moments, I want her to have someone who knows her, loves her, and has a relationship with her beyond gifts and the occasional phone call.
I know I am not alone in my desires. Good parents want their kids to have a solid support system. I also know I am not alone in my challenges. As military parents, we face this struggle to secure support with every move. Our kids lack roots. Soliciting a mentor may sound unnecessary to some, but I am calling out for those tree charms again. I am turning to those who love us and bluntly asking for their support of my daughter in the following ways:
- Can you commit time and energy to getting to know our daughter over the years?
- Will you ask her open ended questions, listen well and allow her to share her thoughts, opinions, grips and frustrations?
- Will you avoid making harsh judgements on her mistakes but guide her to what is right?
- Will you gently push her to her potential even when she pushes back?
- Will you be an example for her, inspire her and share the life lessons you have learned?
- Will you partner with her dad and me to instill the fact that she is deeply loved, uniquely created, and she has a purpose?
There is just something about being known at different stages in our lives that grounds us, like roots on a tree, and I want that for her. Maybe you can use this guide to solicit mentors for your own military child in need of something deeper.
Allison Struber is an educator, writer, military spouse and mother of three. Inspired by her kid’s energy and her husband’s dry humor, she spends her days speaking in schools, facilitating support groups and steadily taking in each moment. Read more of her writings at fb.me/STEMwritings.