Roots & Wings

On a recent visit to the local library, I got to chatting with a sweet Mama of a baby and a 4-year-old. Our kids have approximately the same age gap between them (nearly four years) so we talked about that for a little while, and soon I found myself explaining that we are a military family and only here for two years (it was relevant, I promise). I got the reaction I usually get when I tell this to a civilian mother of young kids: the raised eyebrows and slight tilt of the head followed by some variation of, “Oh wow! You’re only here for two years? You already know that? Isn’t it hard moving around all the time?”. Now, I didn’t even catch this woman’s name so I’m not about to go into a deep and meaningful conversation about the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs, the pros and cons, of our lifestyle and, in particular, of moving around a lot. So I went with my standard response, a variation of, “Well it has its challenges, of course, but we sure get to experience a lot of different things”. I then swiftly move on to a different topic.

There are two separate and distinct schools of military wives when it comes to this topic: Those who truly love and embrace the changes, the chances to start again and again, the freshness of a new adventure, the thrill of meeting new people and setting up a new house, and the opportunities we are given by seeing and becoming a part of so many areas of our beautiful country. The other school, my school, appreciates and admires the first school. And it isn’t that I disagree…those can all be exciting. But mostly, I feel differently. Yes, there are advantages. Yes, I think it’s pretty stinkin’ cool that our kids have lived in a small military town, the agricultural prairies, a historic lake-side Ontario and beautiful, coastal Eastern city. Beaches and hay bales and trolley tours and the ocean. Very, very cool. And they will likely do exceptionally well in their Canadian Geography classes.

But what I didn’t say to Library Mama was how I truly feel:

that sometimes the weight of constant change is so heavy that I feel like I can’t take a deep breath. That the absence of family around the corner makes me sick with envy of those who have it. That painting three different kitchens’ cabinets and replacing two rooves and, and, and, and in the past 10 years is expensive and exhausting. That knowing for a fact that we have a ticking clock on our time here can be both a relief and a burden. That the guilt that our kids won’t have the same best friend for years and years is very real. That sometimes when I explain to them how fun our next adventure will be and why it will be so fun to try living somewhere else, I’m mostly explaining that to myself, too. And that I want to give my children wings, of course, but I believe with my whole heart that I could do that while also giving them roots, only I’m never given the chance.

Don’t get me wrong. I also firmly believe that giving your children both roots and wings has more to do with parenting than it does with where you live or how often you move. But even a bird that flies as high as his wings will allow still has a nest to come home to. And larger birds who build larger nests will even use the same nest again and again. Any nest that is large and complicated and that required a lot of effort to make, will be reused unless there is a territorial dispute or it is demolished by nature. And of course as everyone knows, many nests are built in trees. So in their own way, birds themselves have both roots and wings, don’t they?

And I’d say our home falls into the category of large, complicated, and requiring of a lot of effort to make. Wouldn’t you?

This isn’t a post to ask for advice or to ask how to stay afloat in waters that often feel dark and deep.

No.

This is a post to say that if you are a military wife who is sick of moving around and who hates starting again and again, I’m right there with you.
If you are a military wife who loves the adventure of change, then I think that’s wonderful. But not everyone can or even wants to embrace the semi-nomadic lifestyle.

And if you aren’t a military wife at all, but is instead a friend to one, or someone who has heard themselves say to one, “Wow! I don’t know how you do it!”. Then know this: We do it the same way we all do anything. We wake up every morning, thank God for what we do have, work our way through the hard stuff, and play the hand we are dealt. We aren’t super-powered. We aren’t stronger than you.

And for those of you who have said to one of us, “I wouldn’t be able to do it!”, know this:
Yes, you would.
You would and sometimes you’d hate it and sometimes you’d love it.
Your heart would be scattered all over the country in places you’ve lived and with people you’ve loved along the way.
And you would cry when you miss them and cry harder when you’re together again.

Because when you choose a spouse who hasĀ the elephant, you have no other choice.

Take care of yourself,
Mel

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