The dandelion is the official flower of the military child because it can sprout anywhere, goes where the wind takes it, and adapts to its environment. As a military child, I can agree with this assessment of growing up in the military. I was born in England and lived in three different states, six different houses, three different elementary schools, and three different middle schools by the time I was 13 and my dad retired. Which isn’t as many moves as some other military children have had. Growing up military taught me many things that have helped me throughout my adult life, particularly so when I also became a military spouse.
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5 Things I Learned Growing Up Military
Semper Gumby. First and foremost, I’ve learned how to adapt to change. While I enjoy my comforts and don’t like events sprung on me, I’ve learned that life happens and you can’t predict everything. When unexpected circumstances pop up, I’ve learned to assess the situation and decide the best course of action, rather than worrying about what’s going to happen. It may still be a stressful situation, but the stress doesn’t take over and I take one thing at a time. It could be a move to a new location, a car breaking down, an emergency expense, or even a change at work. Being put into different situations as a child allowed me to learn how to adapt to various life changes.
Growing up military put me living in different places and meeting different people—it’s allowed for wider acceptance of those who are different. Whether it’s different cultures, perspectives, religion, looks, or any other number of attributes. In the military community, you depend on each other and the differences tend to be superficial, especially if you’re on a small installation. And as a child, you’re especially looking to connect with those around you and find friends. Military children often don’t care about the differences between them and other children, they look for the connections that will allow them to be friends in a new place.
I’ve always considered myself a social chameleon. I don’t fit into one group of people or another. While I’m not an extrovert, I can fit easily into almost any social group and find common ground with just about anyone. This leads to finding and making friends easier. Growing up military has given me this ability since military children meet and connect with all kinds of people throughout the US and even sometimes other countries. They learn how to find common ground with others and build relationships from those common interests.
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While pretty much everyone in the military hopes to find at least one person to connect to, independence is a necessity. This is true for the military child as well. Unfortunately, there are going to be times where a child is not going to make friends easily. And they are going to have to stand on their own. They have to learn how to be alone during the long travel from one duty station to the next or maybe a summer between schools when it may be harder to find friends outside of the school environment. They learn how to stand up for themselves and maybe even others.
I’ve had friends who have lived in the same place their whole lives and if they move away from family, it’s extremely difficult for them. I’ve known military spouses who have moved for 6-12 months back home with their family while their spouse was deployed because they were homesick. It was only their spouse keeping them at the duty station. They move their kids, pets, and need to put their items in storage for that amount of time.
When my siblings and I graduated high school, we had no problems venturing out on our own as young adults. My brother served in the Air Force, my sister found a job and a place for herself to live, and I moved to North Carolina (three states away from family) with my new husband. And while we love our parents and family, we’re independent of one another. Probably more than our parents would like, to be honest. Military life fosters independence, and no one needs it more than the military child.
Life is constantly moving and evolving. Even small towns eventually grow and change. The town I spent my high school years has grown exponentially since I left. Growing up military makes change commonplace and builds flexibility. We don’t expect life to stop or remain stagnant; we know changes will come. Obstacles will be put in our path that we will have to conquer. Even if life does hit a lull and we can relax for a while, we’re always prepared for the next big change and we roll with it rather than rolling over.
The military life can be difficult no matter the age, but it can be more difficult for the children growing up in it. They did not choose the military life as their parents did. However, military children tend to be more independent and open-minded than their peers who grow up in one place.
They learn to adapt to their environment and see past the differences between themselves and others. They learn that life is never stagnant and how to overcome obstacles in their path. And while this journey is different for every child, and every child has their own personality and how they handle life, the military certainly gives them skills they use throughout their lives.