Military Children – The World They Live In

Adapting to change is something we all struggle with, and we all know how change (and lots of it) can disrupt children and affect their wellbeing.

Military children are inspiring.

We waved goodbye to Daddy in our house for the 2nd time in 2 years. Last year, she had her 2nd birthday a month into his deployment and was barely aware that he was going. When she asked, I told her Daddy was at work (or on holiday!), but with little concept of time at that age, she didn’t know when he was coming back. That was probably made all the more confusing when his tour was extended, and he returned for 2 weeks R&R in the middle of it before heading back out to finish the tour off.

This time is different. It’s a much shorter tour for a start (just shy of 3 months as opposed to 8), and Olivia is older now. She’s 3.5 years old and much more aware that Daddy has gone away to work for a while.

It’s something she’s used to, though more from me being away at work than Daddy. In fact, she is used to both of us working long and unusual hours, having little routine in terms of who will be picking her up from the childminder, or who will be tucking her into to bed.

She takes it all in her stride, only occasionally being upset that either Mummy or Daddy aren’t around when she wants us. I am so immensely proud of how well she manages all of that change at such a small age. I suppose the big, independent and fierce personality (that she was destined to inherit from me and her Nanny) probably has a lot to do with it!

The other home truth about military families is that, usually, when one parent goes way, the other one is around to do everything. If they work, it’s part-time or in school hours or a normal job with normal dependable hours. The army mantra is still very much set back in the 1950s, expecting the ‘wives’ to do everything when it comes to childcare or managing a home. I’m not sure how this equates when the serving member is a woman with a husband at home, but, in our situation, Olivia is a bit of an anomaly in that respect. When Daddy is here, it’s him doing the majority of the home life, but in reality, neither of us are dependable because either of us could be away at the drop of a hat.

She didn’t choose this life, and no military children do, no military spouses do either, for that matter! We’re all lumped with it and have to make the best of it. But our children are certainly the most incredible little people, managing the change so well and with few complaints along the way.

Their voices are rarely heard. Spouses often feel overlooked when it comes to the respect and awe that their service member receives for ‘what they do’, because the people left behind dealing with the everyday are forgotten. If the spouses feel that way, imagine how the children must feel. Especially those like Olivia who are too young to really understand where Mummy/Daddy is other than ‘at work’ and wondering how long it will be until they’re back.

The cake we baked for Daddy after his last deployment!

Unfortunately for Olivia she has even more change to come. There is no support at all for military families needing childcare while one spouse is deployed, and so Olivia will be spending the weekdays with Nanny for the next 3 months so that I can carry on going to work.

Military life is so incredibly frustrating, and definitely better suited to single people who want to travel the world! Our family of four became two, and is soon to become one, whilst we wait for Daddy (and Kiera with him) to come back home.

I’m so proud of our ‘pad rats’ for adapting so well to everything that’s been thrown at them. But we certainly cannot wait to have Daddy back home!!!

Are you a military family? What’s your experience of military life?

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Life of an Army Wife – Why We Need a Routine!

If you’ve followed my stories before on this blog, you will know that my husband is a serving member of the Grenadier Guards, and he has recently completed a tour of Afghanistan.

Don’t get too excited, by a ‘tour’, I mean, literally, he went to a 5* resort with a 24/7 restaurant, gym, cinema room… etc. etc. You name it, the American camp he was on had it! Gone are the days where our soldiers were on the front lines out there! It’s still dangerous, of course, however just for context, before he went away, his many, MANY briefings indicated that his biggest threat to life would be a road traffic accident.

Now, that probably sounds like I’m downplaying it a lot, but really, there wasn’t all that much to worry about with him overseas. There were some scary moments where a couple of bombs went off in the city, or his vehicle broke down in the middle of Kabul and they had to wait out in the open for it to be fixed, but on the whole, the 7 month tour was without its dramas. (For him anyway!)

The hardest parts of the tour were the time difference, the radio silence, and me effectively being a single mother, trying to fill up my empty time.

Jamie was 3 and a half hours ahead of us, which doesn’t seem like much of a difference, and at first it didn’t affect us very much at all. He began the tour in early April while I was still on my Easter break from uni, and even when I went back to uni, it was only then for exams. So I would do an exam, come home, maybe do a little part-time shift at next, then go back to being mum for the rest of the day. It was fairly flexible and because I was available pretty much all of the time, the time difference wasn’t all that noticeable…

However, come June, I started working full-time. Olivia had to be at the childminder’s house for 07:30 dead on, otherwise I would miss my train to work at 07:38. From June until August, my train journey to work was pretty much the only uninterrupted period of time that we would be able to talk. Luckily, things have changed a lot since he last went to Afghanistan and he was able to use wifi from his room on camp, so we could send messages or video call as long as he was in his room. But by the time I finished work and got home with Olivia, he would be getting ready for bed. Still, Olivia got to speak to him most nights, though not for very long before I had to crack on with dinner, bath and bed for her too.

And so part 1 of our little routine developed. The strict morning routine of me habitually running to the train station to catch my train within 8 minutes of dropping Olivia off, and the strict evening routine of Olivia’s phone call with daddy, dinner time, bath time, our talcum powder thing (where we pretend to go crazy with the powder and shout “don’t tell dad!” while doing so), and bed time, listening to Daddy reading We’re Going on a Bear Hunt on the CD player.

It got harder to manage that effectively if Olivia missed Daddy’s call because he was out on a patrol, or if he was away from camp for longer than a couple of days. You know what it’s like, toddlers asking for something, you saying no, then they want it more and become even more persistent in their annoying whining about it… it was like that, except she was asking for Daddy, not just another piece of chocolate or something equally unimportant. Those times were stressful for me too, not least because I would be worrying about where he was (as he couldn’t usually tell me if he was leaving camp) and when I would speak to him next, but also I’d have a pretty much inconsolable child and I didn’t know what on earth to do about it.

I suppose that actually fed into the second, and biggest, part of our routine. We started filling our time up full of things to do. I found evenings so difficult, as it had been the first time in 5 years that I didn’t have any studying to do. Netflix played a large part in the evening “me time”, as did blogging until the pressures at work got slightly higher and I had the facility to work from home (big mistake – now I feel like I never log off). Filling up our weekends was slightly more difficult. Before Jamie came home for R&R (Rest & Recuperation) in August, I was still not driving and had to rely on trains or buses to get anywhere.

The first thing I focused on was throwing Olivia’s birthday party in May. People thought I was crazy doing it all at our house – I did the food, hired a bouncy castle, invited about 20 kids, and yes, it was hectic, but the cake, the picky bits and the other things I had to plan and organise made it a big distraction for me!

I tried to always do something at the weekend with her – we went to SeaLife in London, we met up with other Mums whose husbands were deployed and did a morning at Coral Reef in Bracknell, we went on a trip with the Welsh Guards Welfare to Legoland. I think I (very rarely) got the train to Kent to see my mother-in-law, and my dad even came down from Hull to visit me one weekend when the Grenadier Guards had a big fun day on up at camp.

It was difficult not having family nearby, literally managing Olivia on my own, and Olivia only managed to see her sister twice in that time, adding to the feeling of the time just dragging by! I can’t imagine how much she must have missed both her and her dad, and she was still really too young to understand where they’d gone. She knew daddy was at work (on holiday) and Kiera was at her mummy’s, but she went from seeing them both all the time to not at all.

That’s why it was so important to get into a busy routine. The more things we did, the easier it became to just crack on with life and the time passed far more quickly.

After August, it was so much easier to get into an even better routine because I FINALLY started driving! I was able to find little clubs and activities to take Olivia to, like I had wanted to for ages, and it doubled up as something else to keep us busy and keep our minds off the fact that Daddy should have been home for good in August, as his tour was extended until No

vember just a month before his R&R and I received that news on my birthday (how kind of them!)

Our weekend itinerary is;

Saturday:

9am – Dancing
10am – Gravity Force Trampolining
11:20am – French
Afternoon – Housework (aka nap time)

Sunday:

10am – Gravity Force Trampolining (sometimes)
2pm – Swimming

In the middle of those activities we found time to make and send parcels to daddy which Olivia enjoyed doing, and it doubled up as messy play for her as she painted and decorated the shoeboxes and made pictures for him that we sent out to him on blueys or in his parcels.

As you can tell, we liked to be kept busy, and it made the time fly! Although it was still rough not having Jamie around and my evenings were pretty uneventful and long, spending that quality time with Olivia and keeping us both busy really helped to distract us from missing him.

Are you a military spouse? How do you distract yourself when your other half is deployed overseas? Let us know in the comments!

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A poem for my husband

If you’ve been following our blog up until now, you may or may not know that my husband is currently deployed in Afghanistan.

We recently received some pretty bad news about his deployment, and I’ll be honest, I’m not handling it all that well. I’ve been on anti-depressants again for a few months now and only recently upped my dosage, and I felt like I was finally content with my life. After all, I have nothing to be depressed about right?
Wrong.
Depression affects the way you perceive everything. And so, Jamie, my darling husband (warning: if you’re reading this you might want a sick bucket to hand), there’s only one thing that is unaffected by this horrible illness, and that’s the way I feel about you and our girls.
This is for you, for keeping me going through the tough times.

Our Love

Our love is like a tidal wave,
Powerful and strong.
Our love is like a piece of string;
It goes on and on and on.
Our love is like an hourglass –
Stuck forever in time.
Our love is like a rocket,
Seeing how high it can climb.
Our love is like an envelope,
Enclosing everything we are.
Our love is like an aeroplane,
Taking us away someplace far.
Our love is like an ocean
With beautiful depths to find…
Our love is like the sun;
It can make any other man blind.
Our love is like an angel,
Flying across the earth.
Our love is like a goldmine
With its irresistible worth.
Our love is like a mountain,
Standing steadfast and tall.
Our love is like a safety net
To catch us when we fall.
Our love is like a fairytale
With the happiest ever after.
Our love is like a playground
Filled with so much laughter.
Our love is unconditional,
Evergreen like the trees.
Our love is everywhere,
And it means everything to me.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday