What It's Like to Be a Military Family and Move During the School Year
There are lots of things in life that I have not fully mastered. I still can't cook rice on the stove top (half is always undercooked and crunchy), my toast is usually burnt to a crisp, I don't mop nearly as often as I should, and I don't put my laundry away when it's clean (it hangs out in neat piles). But despite not being the best at a lot of small things, I know that I'm a total pro at something many people dread and fear: moving and saying goodbye to people I adore.
While I know we will find new people to love in our next town, it's hard for my children to see that. This will be their hardest move.
As an Army wife, moving is something I had to wrap my head around immediately. I also had to learn to call it by its proper name (the military has a name or acronym for everything!), which is the permanent change of station, or PCS for short. When it's time for the PCS to happen, I know exactly how it will unfold before the process even starts. I know how the months leading up to the big move will feel, and I know how to deal with all the emotions that come with packing up your life. By the time official paperwork has been signed, sealed, and delivered to us, we've been waiting weeks to hear what our next adventure is (the nomadic Army life will do that to you).
I've done three PCSs since I married my husband, and none have actually ever been easy. The first PCS, I had to leave my mom, mother-in-law, and very best friend when I was pregnant with our first child. The second PCS, I left a makeshift family, one patched together and cemented over cookies and wine, long talks, and snowy nights. The third PCS, I moved while my husband was deployed in Iraq. I cried as I watched another makeshift family fade in my rearview mirror. This family had been born through the trials of premature babies and surprise babies. No matter how many times I tell myself not to, I inevitably find and fall in love with a group of people that I know will be hard to leave.
Military families don't always have a built-in network of people to help us raise our children. To say we like to rely on the community we live in to help is an understatement — we have to rely on them, because we have no one else. Our makeshift families become so important to our everyday survival that it's overwhelming to leave them. Our upcoming PCS will be no different in terms of packing, shipping, and moving our household items. However, this move comes in the middle of a school year. A school year where we finally have all three of our children enrolled — one in fourth grade, one in kindergarten, and one in preschool. While I know we will find new people to love in our next town, it's hard for my children to see that. This will be their hardest move.
In the next several months leading up to this move, we'll spend a lot of time talking to the children about what they might feel. We'll tell them it's OK to be sad about leaving their friends, but that they'll make new ones. We'll tell them it's OK to cry when we say goodbye to their babysitter (she is a magical babysitter, so I will cry, too). And we'll tell them that these feelings don't last forever, even though sometimes it feels like they will.
A miraculous trait seen in military children is their amazing gift of resilience. This move during the school year will be a challenge, and there will be tears and meltdowns, but our children will rise. They will be just fine.
Whenever I tell someone that I've mastered the art of moving, they might assume that means I don't find it hard. Nothing could be further from the truth. What helps me the most is knowing the little families I form in each place will always have my back. It also helps knowing that a new family awaits us at our next duty station. Plus, there could very well be someone there that will finally be able to help me learn how to cook rice.