What Does it Take to be a Good Military Parent?

Or maybe my title should have been, “Parenting you’re doing it all wrong,” but if you’ve read this far you are probably one of two things: 1. Hiding in the bathroom pretending to pee but instead searching the internet on your phone OR you’re desperately trying to find one parcel of sound advice that might give you some solace that your child will not grow up and need a jacket for more than warmth. Here’s the truth: You’re screwing up your kids- all of them, one of them, seven of them, every.single.one. including the ones you haven’t even named yet and I applaud you for it.

One day when I was practicing scenario one written above, I stumbled across an article that was shared by every mother on my friends list. You see at the time my husband was deployed and though in my mind I was a docile creature with nothing but gentle reactions to poop footprints and stab wounds inflicted on my prized leather bench, reality proved otherwise. I believe the title of the article said something about how I was quite literally breaking my children’s little bodies in half if I yelled at them. Or maybe it was the one that was bathed in my children’s tears because mommy was texting at the playground. You just go ahead and pick your favorite one and insert it {here}. I read the article all while the elephant of mom guilt on my back prompted me to shake that creature off and float-fairy godmother style- to rescue the lost souls I had been ensnaring in the chains of toddler hell. My pixie dust wore off when the life or death screams roared for not being able to press “next,” on the Netflix screen. 

It’s not as if I want to turn into the wicked witch of the west, or that I want to ignore my children all hours of the day. It’s actually quite literally the opposite. Almost (a big emphasis on the almost) every day I wake with a renewed sense of wanting to do better. I want my kids to eat from the dark corners of the food pyramid that we rarely visit. I want the preamble of the constitution to take hold in their long term memories so that they can one day answer a random test question on a History exam while simultaneously thinking, “thanks mom, for teaching me in my youth to appreciate important things.” My whole world is full of things I want to do better, especially when it comes to my children, but truthfully most of those things last until 9:45 am especially when I am parenting alone for long periods of time. 

I’m not here to preach to anyone about the amount of TV time you should allow in your households and I certainly am not a fountain of knowledge when it comes to talking a three year old off a tantrum. But there is one thing I do really well that I am so proud of. I love my kids. In the middle of soccer game when one of them cries for not getting to high five from a deployed dad after a goal, I hold my little one so tight that it counts for two parents. When it’s just me home to celebrate a long awaited birthday I make the day out of this world special. I love my children so much that it literally hurts. It hurts to watch them struggle with things they don’t understand because of our lifestyle. It hurts to watch them grow up more rapidly than my heart wants to let them. I love them with the force of a hundred armies and if I can just keep doing that I’m hoping that a few songs from Daniel Tiger will suffice in the stead of the preamble and that a few moments of anger and raised voices will be forgiven.

We’re all screwing up our kids, at least probably most of us are, but if you can manage to screw them up with all the love in your heart- I applaud you for that. 

Photo: Morgan Slade Photography

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