I never imagined the day that I would use KICKSTARTER for anything. It was simply a site for those much more creative than I was. There was no chance on earth that I would ever create something worthy of being funded by people around the world. But, then I decided to create a book.
One which I spoke about at lengths during my last article here in WordPress.com titled “Father Is Always With Me”. Yet, here I am today writing, asking, sharing with the world in order to garner enough support to make my dream a reality. I can’t do this alone, I know that much, but perhaps together with the help of hundreds of strangers, I can achieve anything.
Now, this is my first foray into the world of crowdfunding and it has been scary to say the least. It’s very nerve wracking, the idea of exposing yourself out there to the world and trying to make them care about your goals. My video recording of the KICKSTARTER video was designed as a heartfelt story to each of those who serve, their relatives or even retired from the military. It doesn’t hide my intentions or try to make a bigger deal of what it already is. This book after all is a love letter to all of the “military brats” we know and adore.
Look, I’ve said it hundreds of times already; most of the literature available for children in the military is aimed at telling them how great their parents are. But, that’s not enough for me, I want to let them know that we understand how difficult it is to be on the other side of the coin. Spouses who remain back from deployment will relate to me on this topic. But, when I say it is awful being the one staying back while knowing their loved ones are enduring so much stress and pain. It’s so hard to know you can’t comfort those you care about in their time of need. If it’s like this for us adults, can we imagine how bad it is for those who only know a parents love?
Children in the military have it even worse, a parent is their whole world to them. Yet, it seems like they’re simply observers in these stories, side-characters to watch in astonishment as their parent becomes part of something greater than themselves. I want to change this. We need to note the importance of telling these children that their emotions are normal, and those feelings of uncertainty and sadness are part of what makes life a beautifully chaotic work of art. But, without the support of the community it will take probably longer than my natural life, to get this book and the multitude of books I have planned out into the market.
If this campaign succeeds then every parent that has asked me for a physical copy of the book will be able to purchase their own book. To share the story of Leonardo, a boy who has experienced many things in his 3 years of life. A story which many children in the military will relate to very closely. Friends, I need your support!
There is a whole sleuth of books for military children out in the market. But, when you ask parents in the military about books for their kids, they will typically not be aware of them. I’ve also noticed a trend in these books which is really interesting. They all put the military parent in a sort of pedestal from which the military parent is the main focus of the story. While I don’t mean to demean the value of our service members (being one myself) it is important to understand that the focus of these books should be the children.
Thus I kept this in mind when venturing into the foray of becoming an author. A few months ago I began working on a little pet project called “Father Is Always With Me” a small little military book, by a military member which details the life of a small toddler called Leo through his first PCS and parents deployment. In it the focus lies within the domain of the child. Leo is the one who is experiencing the majority of these events for the first time and as such he’s learning to cope. Through his journey he realizes that home is not a set location, but rather the place where his loved ones and himself reside. It’s made with all branches in mind and despite the majority of the uniforms being Navy oriented it is universal enough to be understood by all kids and parents of other branches.
The illustrations are adorable professionally made with a lot of care and detail. These were made in a cute art style that simulates paper cut-outs and the characters are all beautifully made. “Father Is Always With Me” is certain to catch the eyes of any person who adores cute characters and wants to read a solid amount of story to their children.
You see a lot of children books are short and simple reads, but they can leave parents feeling unsatisfied (I know I am when reading books for my son). However, in order to alter the status quo this book has a good amount of words (basic words which can be easily read) designed to fulfill both parents and young readers.
Finally, perhaps it’s time to start creating more books for military children by military members who can relate the stories of their own experiences with their families. But, it can’t happen without your help. Support a fellow military member and perhaps we can start a movement that actually realizes the value of the children that are our future. The children of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. Check out this book on Amazon Kindle!
Living inside a naval vessel involves an extremely high amount of risk tolerance. “Ships have killed, and will kill again” is a very common saying among U.S Navy sailors. After all, we deal with many threats out in the sea, which include the risk of exposing ourselves to other countries whose intentions might not be so noble. But, also sailors run the risk of having a fire inside (or on) the galley, aircrafts, munitions bay, fuel lines, work spaces, perhaps even falling overboard and drowning in the ocean. What people aren’t aware of however, is the true enemy inside a naval vessel exists in locations so common, that you might even be walking on one every day.
Ladder wells, two of the scariest words which could be used in conjunction for any sailor that has been aboard a ship. The ship has an extreme amount of these, and they all have varying degrees of danger to them, which range from: regular stairs to Mt. Everest in levels of steepness, yet they are all equally deadly. But, what makes this so dangerous Dash (you might be asking yourself)? To which I’ll answer: allow me to explain. When you are walking up regular stairs, there is always the risk of losing your balance and hitting a sharp corner, but it’s very unlikely (due to how simple it is) now imagine walking up those same stairs during an earthquake (suddenly, it’s not as easy). Ships are in constant motion; the constant rocking of the ship can throw any sailor’s sense of balance out the window in a heartbeat. You couple this with having to walk up the riskier stairs and you got a recipe for broken hands, feet, knees, and in some cases death. There are also, very few manners in which you can mitigate the risks involved, you might walk slower, but then you’ll inconvenience others who are trying to pass, perhaps even hold on to the railing, but I’ve tried this one and still fell down knee first (earned me a nasty scar with that event). I am convinced that these stairs are cursed, and or sentient.
At the very least I am convinced that the former is true. They have to be cursed to explain some of the events that have happened to me while traversing through them on the way to my office. I have fallen, lost my balance, tripped on them, and generally feel like they will eventually cause me PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I have probably gotten hurt on those ladder wells more than I have throughout my entire life. These ladders, probably account for more injuries on the ship than any other high-risk activity/object, and I think the reason is clear. It’s obvious that ladder wells are apex soul stealing predators which run rampant throughout the ship. They run no risk of ever being eliminated because they are necessary for travel; as such, they have claimed the lives of many sailors, each one adding an extra soul which assists in taking even more lives.
Now you might be thinking to yourself that perhaps the insanity of life in the boat has taken a hold of me, but how else can we explain the almost preternatural ability for these ladder wells to hurt sailors. I have heard some of the most horrific tales from other sailors, which include the one female who lost her balance and landed with her legs between the handrails, another sailor fell down and landed head first in those same handrails (he had a concussion). Most of these reports never go outside of the need to know basis, so civilians aren’t aware of them, but we are! We live our lives in constant fear that the spirits which live inside the ladder wells don’t choose us as their next victim. The reason for this fear is not unwarranted either; we have to live inside this boat for 6 months out of the year at minimum. We walk upon these cursed objects approximately 50 (or more) times a day depending on which location of the boat your work station is located. Every single day we wake up with the knowledge that if we take one single wrong step, the ladder wells will claim our lives. Read this carefully, every single step we take upon those ladder wells could be our last. This dear readers, is the definition of living life on the edge of a knife.
This article was a blast to write, I wish I could convey the emotions that are felt every single time that I have to walk through one of these. It’s terrifying.
I am not the owner of the images utilized for this article, but I am the owner of the blog and article.
I’ve been in the Navy for 7 1/2 years now. It’s certainly been a roller coaster of good and bad events. Last year, around this time frame, I got orders to the USS Ronald Reagan, a ship that has been recently posted at Naval Base Yokosuka in Japan, a fact that made the news due to protest by the local Japanese populace. I was not very happy with the orders that had been issued to me, but what was coming could not be anticipated by someone who has not been in a naval vessel prior to his arrival.
I was originally meant to be flown into the vessel after receiving some basic courses and orientations for living aboard a vessel as well as for being a newcomer in Japan. But, due to some unfortunate circumstances in which I prioritized my family’s well being instead of the basic living in Japan courses they took me to the boat earlier than anticipated (approximately a full month before expected). I had barely enough time to gather my essentials and uniforms (who needed new items patched on due to my change of station) but, could not grab as much as I’d have liked. This meant I had to prioritize and instead brought with me living essentials such as shampoo (which I lost) and toothpaste (this one, I actually lost twice) that were purchased in case of emergencies (I was smart enough to have anticipated some crazy change of plans). However, the short notice meant that I left things behind (important things like a much touted sleeping bag). At night the ships don’t have much in the terms of insulation and it meant the difference between freezing and sleeping well. This however, was the beginning of a true nightmare.
I believe that it is unfathomable for civilians to imagine how awful life aboard a naval vessel truly is. Indeed most people don’t have to imagine what it is to live/sleep/eat/workout/work/shower/crap/exist within the confines of the same relatively small location. Some people would think it’s prison, but let me tell them right now that calling this a prison would not be doing it a favor (the prisoners have it much better than sailors at least they get better hours and more time to work out). A person once described life on a boat to me as taking a dumpster, painting it gray and living on it for 6 to 10 months every year (this is approximately the closest and most truthful description that could have been said). Needless to say, that being a sailor aboard an U.S. Naval vessel is one of the crappiest circumstances in which a person can find themselves in. But, in order to explain just how bad the circumstances of a U.S. Navy sailor is, an explanation of our life is required.
First of all, the good-byes are some of the most heart breaking events that you will ever experience. When I left my house, there was barely any warning about what the chain of command had planned. I was simply told to get on the vessel and leave. This meant that my wife had barely any chance to prepare herself emotionally for my departure (she originally wanted us to have a nice family dinner the day before). My son who was about to be three, did not quite grasp that this was mandatory and asked me not to say good-bye to him “no say good-bye, father”. It’s heart wrenching when the last image you have of your loved ones is their crying faces in the prospect of such uncertainty (every time we leave, there is a silent understanding that we might never come back). To them, they were totally unprepared for the coming months (and so was I).
So I left, no more words were uttered, and no big celebration was thrown (unlike the home-coming which is a large event , whereas departure is simply packing and leaving). Next thing we all knew, all 5000 were aboard the ship waiting to come back to our loved ones. This is even harder for all of us who were new to the shipboard life. We had no friends, no-one we could confide in, we were completely on our own. It was one of the loneliest moments in my life, and I had to endure (for the sake of my family). The first few weeks on the ship, were the most depressing, you’re not sure of what place you belong in, despair can easily take over and in the face of these scenarios and you can be easily dragged towards depression. From the uncomfortable living conditions, to the horrible work hour schedule (we will speak about these in future articles). It almost seems like a really long and bad nightmare at this point, however unlike in those, we couldn’t just wake up during the especially stressful moments. Yet, somehow we all made it back home.
But, this story does have a positive ending, we all returned alive and well. People are surprisingly resilient creatures, we adapt and overcome. While I don’t think that the shipboard life is something anyone should ever get used to living, it’s good to have that experience under your belt. I have gained a newfound appreciation for my family life, and I’ve gotten a lot more writing material. My wife is happy to have me home, and my son can’t seem to want to stop playing with me. I’ve had a chance to go visit some awesome locations in Japan (a chance that was taken from me due to my departure). I have a thirst for life which had not been there for a long time. The experiences gained on that boat helped shape me into a better person because now I know the definition of terrible.
Take it from me readers, if you want to truly change your perspective in life. Go aboard a naval vessel and live there as the new-guy. You will never be the same person again.
Folks, the sailor has returned and I’m so happy to be back. I got lots of good stories to talk about including an interview with a Korean war survivor from my visit to Busan. I can’t wait to see what the responses are and I hope you’re all having a swashbuckling day!
I’ve made it finally to Japan. It seems like it took me forever to arrive here in the land of the rising sun, and that is because it actually did take that much time. I got orders to this location 14 months ago to my surprise (especially since I did not ask for them in particular) and have been preparing everything that was needed in order to arrive safely. I actually arrived a week and half ago, and it took me a while to get everything set-up including internet, housing, and transportation, but I’m surprisingly efficient. Now that the fluff is out-of-the-way let’s get started onto what I have encountered in my very short amount of time in Japan.
It has been 5 years since my last visit to Japan, and in the time I was absent it has definitely changed. when I first visited Japan regulations on military were not as stringent as they are currently (a side effect of armed forces members being unable to behave in a foreign ports). But, people never change and even during my first visit with my unit we had quite the experiences which weren’t necessarily positive either. Now it has definitively been a bit underwhelming, I was expecting a lot more of this stay and thus far it has led to nothing, but disappointment.
I suppose in retrospect that perhaps we had expected too much from such orders. We (my wife and I) were expecting a place out in town where we could indulge in Japanese culture to a deeper extent instead we were saddled into base housing with the rest of the cattle. I loved the fact that nobody could answer the question as to why my family could only get a 3br apt in Ikego instead of Yokosuka, but no one seemed to have a good response. The worst part about the housing I’m in is that it’s actually outside of base in the middle of a nowhere town called Ikego. There is a temple and a forest here which I have no explored, but essentially there is nothing in this small town aside from Japanese people and military families (what a surprise). The houses aren’t too great either, there are dead zones for cell phone services everywhere. I actually have to put my phone in a window if I want to get any form of reception. These buildings are called high-rises and honestly they suck. The walls are painted white (which can’t be changed unless permission is asked and even then have to be changed back to their original color before you leave). The floors are also white tile and get dirty extremely quickly if you’re trying to shine your boots (anyone else see a problem with this?). It’s almost as if they were trying to be as unaccommodating as possible (since I’ve heard the Japanese built these for us Americans). Especially unaccommodating since, the location is rather distant from the base.
This meant that now I have to wake up an hour earlier catch a shuttle if I don’t want to pay good money for a train or fuel for a car to arrive at my work location instead of simply being able to walk or ride a bicycle (the latter can be done from here, but it takes 40 minutes) . The shuttle and train both have their advantages/disadvantages, but on average will get you there in the same amount of time. However, the shuttle bus doesn’t work on weekends/holidays so if you have weekend duty the only available option is the train and a round trip can cost you around 4 dollars which can quickly add up when you have to ride it twice in a day (that’s 16 dollars for one weekend duty (ouch!)). I really hate living in Ikego, but it’s basically mandated by base policy despite the multiple complaints that housing receives according to the workers there. Yet, this isn’t the worst that living on base has to offer because probably the worst offender is the monopoly held by a company called Americable.
Americable has a contract with the base that basically allows it to run rampant with the services it provides. As its name states it’s a cable company, but it also functions as the only internet provider in the base housing which allows it to charge a 100 dollars for 60mb download speeds (which never function and the fastest download I’ve ever gotten was 4mb per second which lasted for about a few minutes). Now, some of you might be thinking that’s not a terrible deal whatsoever. The problem with that train of thought, however is that outside of the gate people can get download speeds of up to 1 or 2GB per second for 50 dollars! This is half the price for 2, 3, almost 4 times the same service. It is almost criminal to let such a company be the sole provide for this entire base! I have filed complaints about this, written to the Navy times, and even told higher-ups about how much this resembles corporate terrorism and nobody seems to be concerned with the members getting shafted!. It seems that no matter where you go in the military we always get stuck with the worst service providers in the world. All of these limitations mean that to do fun things in Yokosuka base you literally have to spend money out in town.
Yokosuka itself has a lot of very interesting things to do however, if it’s not the internet cafe’s, restaurants, shopping malls, arcades and even other extremely fun things to do; you can always travel on the train to the many other locations that Japan has to offer. I went to an arcade the other day and got beat up by my young friends in a match of intense table hockey. Played the Pokken game which I will have to find pictures of since in my excitement forgot to take some. Played and lost at the UFO games which I had dominated in Okinawa. I also ate some fancy Japanese Cuisine with my new friends. I’ve seen some of the coolest things out and about which is probably what made me want to come here in the first place. So where does that make me stand on the whole issue of orders to Japan?
Simple, if anyone single asked me to get orders to Japan I would totally tell them to do it. It is definitively a place for single men to come about and do what they are known for doing which is have fun. A full salary to spend is pretty much a must in this country since it seems that base is a black hole for having fun. Sure the amenities are nice since at least Americable is kind enough (read terrorist) to provide free wi-fi in most get together spots. But, for a family man like myself which have to be mindful of where their money goes it definitely limits the potential for enjoyment to a severe degree. The only thing that is keeping me sane is literally the fact that my family is here with me and that I can at least manage to survive with their help. So if you’re married with children please avoid this place because you will get the shaft without any lube.
On a side note Japanese people are really nice, I went to a store called Coop and bought a banana and the gentleman at the door gave my son a “neko magneto” literally a cat magnet sticker for the fridge, little old ladies gush over my son, and girls on the train are as mysterious as they appear in anime. I saw a meganekko today at the train who seemed a bit distraught. We made eye contact and I guess she that all that was required was a smile to cheer her up. Her eyes lit up after she got a warm smile from me (I fancy myself to be an old man so I was trying to be as gentlemanly as possible). After that we quietly rode the train to our respective stops, but before I got off the train I got a translator app and wrote to her that I liked her glasses which were cute, and she smiled even brighter (after I handed her my phone)… We waved goodbye to each other without saying a single word, but her smile seemed sincere and I truly hope that her day was made a bit special thanks to that gaijin who simply did not want to make a bad impression. Perhaps the true root of understanding lies in being kind to each other (and a simple translator app).
I hope whoever reads this understands the value of a smile, a simple gesture of kindness can brighten up the day of even those individuals which we can’t verbally understand. My day was made brighter by the idea that perhaps I cheered up some strangers day, her day was perhaps brightened by a foreigner with a kindness streak (and dashing good looks). Train girl, if we ever see each other again I’ll try to at least say one word in Japanese.
Moving is stressful for almost everyone. It’s been documented all over the internet (and some books) that people in general don’t like the stress of packing everything in the house, simply to go to a different one. Moving is such a hardship that, if you were to do a Google search right now you could find out; it is generally considered among the top five most stressful events in life. As a man in the military, I can attest to how sad it is to pack everything in your house every few years, and leave the place you called home once again. This doesn’t just apply to military members though, everyone that is reading this blog has probably moved once or twice in their lifetime, and knows the hollow feeling of closing the doors to a now empty home. It is probably one of the saddest feelings imaginable, and it can be even harder, when it is the home that your children were born in. This feeling could be attributed to a number of things, but it is generally agreed upon that it is a part of our evolution as human beings.
It all began during the Neolithic Revolution, when humanity started shifting away from nomadic tribes, and into agrarian ones. We started settling in locations, and thus culture was born from this event. However, as we evolved to settle in locations for long periods of time our brains also became accustomed to this. You see the human brain is lazy. It loves routines because it makes things easier to perform, and thus it takes some of the workload away from it. Big changes like for example a move, require copious amounts of effort in order for the brain to adjust, process, and finally accept. The brain being lazy in order to survive does not appreciate the change, and thus humanity as a whole finds the event extremely unpleasant.
But, something that makes a move even more unpleasant is leaving your home, and family behind as you head off to perform an intermediate duty before you finish transferring. I’ve moved about five times in 7 years after leaving for the military. My first couple of moves were extremely simple as I was a single young man with no extra luggage aside from a small bag full of civilian clothing. This was a much easier time, I didn’t have anyone to worry about, and leaving the home was already my goal. I remember those days with much nostalgia, considering that my travels took me to Chicago, Mississippi (Meridian!!! trust me when I say: never ever go there by choice), and finally Hawaii. In those days all I had with me was a sea bag full of clothing, and a carry on which hosted my very important laptop (for work related purposes obviously and not porn in any way shape or form) (why do you ask?). I didn’t have the best home life, so moving was simply a way to escape from everything that was causing trouble for me. I was nineteen, and life did not seem to be getting better, despite trying my best in college. I wanted more, so one day I saw a Navy recruiter in my school, and inquired about joining (this is a story for another day though). Six months later I left home. I miss those days because moving didn’t cause me the stress it does now.
Three and a half years later, I was married, and lived in a small studio with my lovely wife. We only had the barest of essentials, so moving was definitely not hard at that point. But, there was a sadness in the fact that we were leaving Hawaii (an island) which was definitely our home environment (as we came from Puerto Rico). It was going to be our first time living in the continental U.S., and frankly it was terrifying. I’m still not used to the idea that I could drive for days in one direction and not hit any water (for the longest time I’ve ended my directions with the statement “if you hit the water you’ve gone too far). You add in the factors, that I was heading to a new base, a new house, and I barely had any furniture to fill in a single room in the house. It can become pretty overwhelming for a recently married young couple. It became especially troubling when we found out that not two months into our new place, my wife had become pregnant (this is why you make sure to send your televisions in the expedited shipment). We weren’t planning for it for certain (in fact we had been trying to conceive in Hawaii for some time already, so we gave up). But, obviously life has a weird way of working out, and by the time we had realized it we became parents. The house which had until that point only had very small amounts of furniture started looking more like a place fit for a child, and it became our home (as well as the place my son was born). I don’t need to explain how attached my wife, and I became to this place for that very same reason.
Forty-two months later and we are once again in the period of transferring. Our once full house looks like a shell of its former self and all of my furniture looks like this:
Until that point, I had not realized, how much distress this event would cause me. I was simply expecting it to happen at some point this month, but didn’t give it much thought otherwise. I guess subconsciously, my mind was simply trying to protect itself. It’s simply one of those events that you just accept as inevitable when the movers finally arrive at your home. This is when it finally hits you hard, the people you love, the places you know, the adventures you’ve had all come at you with a surge of sadness at the thought of abandoning them. But, nothing in life will prepare you for the blow that is hearing your son asking: “who took my toys?”. How do you explain to a toddler, that everything he has known is leaving for an unknown amount of time to a place that might be across the world? It’s not often you see a military member stationed in the same location for extended periods of time (though it is possible), and we simply accept it as a part of life.
It can be a very emotional period in the life of anyone, yet, somehow even though you know it is coming, there is not a lot you can do to brace for impact when it arrives. You simply head over to wherever the military instructed you to go. However, you don’t always have the luxury of bringing your little piece of home (family) with you. When you go to an intermediate activity before your next duty station the military gives an estimate of how long your stay will be in this location. If it is lower than a certain amount of days, then you can’t bring your family with you. I was in exactly this type of predicament, when I left my last duty station. My decision was to relocate my family to a different state where there was a relative of hers in order to ensure that they wouldn’t feel abandoned. Now we’re in the same time zone, but I still can’t see them over anything, but Skype and pictures (and it breaks my heart). I feel good about their safety, but it is still very sorrowful to hear your son say “no say goodbye father” as you’re getting on a taxi ride to the airport. I couldn’t help, but cry at this display because my son had always been so attached to his mother (that I was simply unimportant).
But, as with everything else in life (except cancer or aids) there is something good to be had from all of this. I will be moving overseas very soon, and it’s extremely exciting. I will enjoy being part of a whole new culture of which I’ve only dabbled on in the past. Moving can be hard, but there is always so much to explore when you leave the comforts of your home. I’m also glad that my son will get the opportunity to learn a new language, that neither the wife or I can speak. Half of the people I know will never get an opportunity to say that they traveled the world on the Governments’ wallet, and as mentioned before it is less than 1% who serve in the military in the U.S. I might have never gotten the opportunities that my job has afforded me if I had stayed in college (which I would still be finishing my doctorate) instead. I will never know if joining the military was the correct decision in my life, but it’s the road that was taken, and I can’t do much, but follow it wherever that may lead.
I have been serving in the military for seven years as of June. During these arduous years, I have experienced many new things including: deployments, marriage, disasters, parenthood, and unpaid overtime. To me however, nothing has been greater or more challenging than being a father. My son is two years old now, and I have been through hell and back for him. I was there when a mountain caught fire, and we had to evacuate the house because of the smoke cloud encompassing the base. I was there, when we ran out of breast milk, and I had to learn how to feed him formula without having it regurgitated back at me. When he missed his mother (who was out on a drill weekend with her unit), and wouldn’t stop crying for hours (despite comforting him in my arms the entire time). When I fell asleep standing up (we learn to do this in boot camp) because he didn’t want me to sit down while falling asleep. I don’t need to specify how much I adore this sweet child of mine. He is my biggest joy in life, and I would do anything in my power to protect him (which includes working in a job I hate).
The biggest challenge comes from discerning when it is appropriate to discipline my child, or if I truly want to do it. You see as a military father, deployment is too much of a constant weight in your mind. If you’re constantly disciplining your child, and acting as an authoritative figure, then you face alienating their feelings. If you consider the fact that you’re gone for a great part of his life, and the only memories they carry are negative; why would the child want you at home?This is something that I fear terribly. I don’t want my son to think of me as the absentee father who was off fighting wars, while his child was at home dreading his return. I want my child to know that I’m his father, friend, and a confidante. But, often time the lines are blurred because if we don’t teach our children discipline then they risk becoming military (spoiled) brats. These are the children around base who cause mayhem. In my base we’ve had breaking and entering, larceny, burglary, one kid even entered a car to smoke weed in there (I have no idea what the goal was, it was in a police report).
But, military (spoiled) brats are the source of a bigger problem which has not been fully addressed yet. Military families need to discipline their children because if the parents don’t do it, then the law will. If the law has to get involved with military dependents, the service member will lose base housing privileges, and even career wise repercussions such as loss of rank. They say kids will be kids, but at what point does that stop being a justification? We can’t continue avoiding the issue, believing our children are good kids all the time because we were children at one point ourselves (we know what we did!). It’s unfair to expect our children to be any different, but we are held to a higher standard (which is sometimes unachievable), and this causes even more rifts in families. Its one (of the many) reasons why divorce rate is so high among military couples despite being 1% of the population.
All of these factors also take a huge toll in the mind of a developing human being. Children are very vulnerable to the struggles faced in the military, and a such many of them rebel in the small ways they can. Could it be a cry for attention? It appears like this is a struggle shared by many members, and does not look as if it will change any time soon. The problems I listed earlier are so common that they’ve appeared in every base I’ve been to during my career. You also learn a couple of stories from members who were military brats, and are now in the service (if anyone has any curiosity feel free to ask me). But there are some good news; the military has a lot of programs to help out new parents, my branch in particular has a family support center that holds training for new parents such as boot camp for dads (in which I have been the veteran father for the last two years). Mothers have a support group, which even teaches them about breastfeeding. This is only a step in the right direction because it seems like despite the military hosting programs for new parents, they forget that parenting is constantly evolving. They must implement other programs to help not just stop troubled children, but actively teach parents different ways to educate children in order to prevent these kind of situations. We are often quick to point fingers at parents, call them names, and even insult their parenting style, but we often forget that parenting has many different structures.
As Military members we live in a very specific type of structured environment, and while rules aren’t often as clear as we would hope. We often carry that structure into our home lives. We hope that the structure, and discipline will be good for children, but instead we teach them to conform. To follow the needs of the many, when in reality this is very damaging to their (children) psychological health. We are sub-consciously taught to follow the crowd, but then to say no, when it’s bad? Can anyone else see the contradiction here? How does a child discern what is good or bad when they are taught that the majority is right (and the complainer is always wrong)? What works for us as adults will not always work for children. It is our job to educate ourselves in raising children. But, we’re too tired/busy/per-occupied (pick one) to do this, and with good reason. The life of a military member (and spouse) is never easy. We face challenges that many others will never see in their lives, and that takes an enormous toll on our health (and mental) well-being. How can anyone expect us, to handle every minute detail with perfection? We are as human as everybody else, which is why we don’t expect to be treated differently when we go out in uniform. So why are our kids expected to be better behaved than any other child?
In Africa they say it takes a village to raise a child. I think they have the right idea, we should help shape children even if they aren’t ours. How many times have you seen a child throw a tantrum at the store (or an airplane) and looked at the parents with despect? Being a father has taught me, that even if my child doesn’t do those behaviors, I shouldn’t judge others. I simply don’t know enough of their situation. Perhaps that person doesn’t have the privileges that I do. I refuse to dehumanize people for the actions of their children. This isn’t perfect thought and even though I try not to judge, it does happen. Parenting is simply not easy, it doesn’t come with a manual, and it’s very easy to lose your temper when a child’s cry is designed to trigger emotional responses. I’m afraid that sometimes I lose my temper, and hurt my son’s feelings, and this crushes my spirit. This is the reason why I wrote this article.
Yesterday, while my wife and I were packing for our transfer, Leo was playing around. At this point it was almost 11pm and we had a truly long day (trying to pack important items, sell our vehicle, what we would eat, checking out of my command) and it was emotionally/physically draining. He should have been in bed already, but instead he was running around, and in one moment of weakness, while my wife and I were speaking he started trying to get our attention. While it was fairly easy to explain to him the first time that we were talking, he progressively got louder and more demanding. This is when I lost my temper and grabbed him by the wrist, and said (in a harsh tone) “Leo! We are talking!”. The look of anger/sadness on his face just tore me apart. I couldn’t stand what I did (as simple as it was). This might seem silly to other, but I hate raising my voice at him, yet its unavoidable at times. My wife soothed him, while he went through the emotions of the moment. She also recognized that it distressed me, and said “it’s all right, he needs to receive discipline at times”, but that’s not how I want my child to see me. I often wonder if this is what goes through the mind of every parent, when they discipline their child… and it is heart-wrenching. Especially considering the agreement that my wife and I made when he was in her womb.
You see, my wife and I decided from a start that she would be the authoritative figure because she would spend the largest amount of time with him. Thanks to this agreement, I get to enjoy spoiling my son every so often. I want to make the time he spends with me very qualitative in order to ensure that my returns are positively anticipated. I want to be his best friend because unlike most children in the U.S. long-term bonds aren’t very possible. So I want his constant to be that dad will be there for him no matter what happens. But, that’s not possible… No matter what will happen, I am his father, and just like my wife have to be there to guide him in making correct decisions. If this means punishment, and discipline then that will have to do. Parents have possibly the hardest job in the world. To ensure that the next generation of human beings is better than the previous one. But, without clear-cut instructions we are often left aimlessly stumbling upon every pitfall we encounter. This is why I apologize to children everywhere for all our shortcomings as parents and I have this to say.
Leo you are my biggest source of pride and joy. You are the sunshine that brightens my every morning while I go to work. You make my life sweeter by simply existing, and I couldn’t possibly adore you any more than I do already. I’m sorry for my mistakes, my temper, the times I couldn’t play with you, the times I had to be strict, those moments where I had to discipline you, and those months I couldn’t see you because of deployment. They are events that I won’t be able to ever take back. But, know that I did them all because of you. Because I was willing to sacrifice every bit of happiness in my life in order to ensure your safety. But, mostly because I wanted to ensure that one day you would grow up to be a respectable adult, worthy of every positive aspect in your life. It tears me apart to see you upset, and I’m sure one day you’ll understand the reasons for my behavior. I want you to remember that father loves you with all his heart, and that will never change for any reason in the world.