Understand, this post isn't a rant. Not at all. It's simply a view of what life is like. Now, I know that what we go through each week isn't unique to Army families. Many families have kids that are actively involved in extracurricular activities. Plenty of kids from civilian families play sports, take music lessons, do scouting, etc. What makes us a bit more unique, though, is the military aspect of it. You see, the Army doesn't really care what time my son's football game is this week. It cares about whether or not the mission is completed (and mission can mean a whole host of things, not just some soldiers going out on patrol!). If we had only one child, this wouldn't present any problems. When there are multiple kids, each with their own events/activities, it gets more complicated. Throw in a deployment (or a command!) on top of that, and things can get a lot more stressful.
I've found, like so many other military spouses, that the only way to really make it work is to get help. Carpooling is the key. Many times events line up between military families and the load can be shared by several. I have several neighborhood kids who take the martial arts classes that I teach. They help by bringing my kids along from the bus stop. When my wife was in Afghanistan, my folks would take one kid to football while I took the other one to TaeKwonDo.
Other times, you have to make some compromises and difficult choices. When we lived in Fort Bragg, my wife was still deployed to Afghanistan and then less than a year later deployed to Kuwait. I made the choice to restrict all of our activities down to just one: TKD. It was something that all of us could do together, all at the same time. My kids definitely had other interests, but this was the way it had to be. Were they any worse for the wear? Nope. Three of them have earned their black belts, and the last one is about a year away from his. Now that we are in a stable situation (at least for the next 8 months...) we've been able to expand what the kids do a bit. That may change with our next assignment, though.
There is something to be said for military kids, though, who have endured the constant moves and deployments. They become increasingly more adaptable and deal with change better and better. My oldest two kids have lived in 7 states so far in their lives. They know that wherever we land for each new assignment for my wife it'll be temporary. They make friends and become involved, but always with the understanding that we'll be moving on in a year or two. And they know that there are limits to how much we can do as a family, especially when mom is deployed.
The most important point, I think, is to not feel guilty over the things that the kids aren't able to be involved in. Sure, I'd love for my kids to do more. But there are limits. I could beat myself over the head and feel as though I've let them down when I have to tell them no for things like sleepovers, lock-ins, and parties. But at the end of the day you can only do what you can do. Letting yourself get down over what we consider to be failures in parenting doesn't help them or do us any good. When all is said and done what matters most is whether or not my kids are loved and know that they are loved. That, I know for sure, I can do. Beyond that, everything else is gravy.
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