While we’re busy feeling all the emotions, torn between sadness of leaving our village and excitement for starting our next military adventure, our kids are busy processing what all of this means to them.

Most kids respond to the turmoil with tears, tantrums and personal setbacks. They leave their current duty station frequently asking why they have to move, lamenting about missing their friends, their school, their home and anything and everything in between. Some weather the storm with minor hiccups, lots of questions, and some extra snuggle time with their parents. They find ways to say their own see you laters to their friends, writing out cards, drawing pictures, promising to stay in touch via any and all social media applications available to them. They exchange friendship bracelets, BFF necklaces, articles of clothing and yearbook messages.

And yet, our youngest kids don’t totally understand what is happening.

Our babies are oblivious, our toddlers are cranky, but our preschoolers are finally starting to learn the realities of their military brat existence. They know they are leaving, but don’t really understand why. They vaguely understand what it means to move to a new house, and try desperately to make sense of what it means to say see you later to their little playmates. They saw the movers pack up their things and put them in a truck that drove away, they’ve heard their parents discussing new homes and locations, and they’ve been told time and time again that they will soon be saying see you later to their friends but will make new friends in a new school soon.

It is a lot to process for a young mind, but somehow, they fit all the pieces of the puzzle together and take away the important parts: Our preschoolers give the most hugs, laugh with their friends most readily, and love fiercely without abandon.

Just last week, surrounded by a neighborhood filled with moving trucks and packing crews, we found ourselves in the midst of an impromptu playdate on the playground with my daughter’s classmate, where she ran around with her friend, giggling the way only little kids can giggle. They slid down the slide holding on to one another, pushed one another on the swings, and when it was time to go in for lunch and naps, gave each other a hug and looked forward to seeing one another in school the next day. On his way out, her little friend picked up a pile of leaves, solemnly walked over to my daughter and handed them to her saying, “This is to remember me by when I move to San Diego.”

I teared up and had to look away. My daughter hugged those leaves to her chest like they were the best treasure she had ever received and carefully carried them to our patio. It was the purest, most sincere form of saying see you later in the way only a preschooler can.

PCS season is hard on all of us, regardless of whether we’re leaving or staying. Perhaps we can learn a little something from our preschoolers: Giggle as much as possible, have fun with your friends, and don’t forget to save a leaf.

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