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  • Cheryl Stanley

Relating to Your Kids as a Former Military Brat: Pt. 1 Family First

My Dad is retired Air Force, my husband is retired Air Force, my brother is retired Air Force, my sister-in-law is still active duty Air Force, my brother-in-law was retired Air Force, and my son-in-law is active Air Force. So, I guess the Air Force has had a big influence in my family’s life and mine. The most important thing we hope our girls learned along the way is how important family is. We are all spread out around the country and it can be hard to be as close as if we lived in the same city or even state.

Maintaining Family Relationships Through Distance

You may be thousands of miles apart, but with todays technology, we are all just a text message, Skype, or Face-time call away. It is sometimes a challenge to keep up with everyone, but it is an effort we all make. As for the four of us, (me, my husband, and our two girls) we have a group chat that we keep going. Some days it is a simple hello. Other days it blows up my phone. I love the pictures and videos they send; it makes me feel more connected when we are far away from each other.

I can’t say I am as good at staying in touch with my siblings. I do try. It has been much easier with the advancement of technology and social media. Staying in touch as a kid meant being home when it got dark and sitting around the dinner table with family. When I went to college, it was the Sunday long distance phone call home, sometimes collect. Living all across the country, it is ever rarely around the dinner table. And with all of the new technology, we don’t have to wait until Sunday anymore. However, I do still call my Dad every Sunday! Speaking of my Dad, he will tell you he doesn’t text. Well, reading this blog, he is in for a bit of a surprise.

Christmas in Texas, Tennessee and Norway

Facebook Family

My first experience with Facebook was Parent Orientation at Purdue. Laura was getting ready to start in the fall, and we were on campus taking tours, meeting with counselors, getting schedules, and attending orientations. I never expected the one piece of advice that has truly changed our communication as a family.

The presenter told us to get a Facebook account and friend our children if we wanted to stay in touch with them over the next four years. We were a bit skeptical, but after the first semester, I was sold. She talked about her friends, and I felt like I knew them from pictures she would post. I could tell when she was frustrated because she stopped posting, and shortly after, there was a phone call.

Laura is an introvert and not much for the phone but can text like nobody’s business. She is an incredible storyteller, not only with her words but her pictures and captions. Thanks to technology and some advice from the university, we were able to stay in touch easily. You just need to find a way to communicate!

Saved by the Messenger

Facebook Messenger saved us again the year Beth studied abroad in France. We weren’t sure how we were going to communicate and afford all of those long-distance charges. Let’s face it: anyone in the military knows we watch every dime. But bring in WIFI and Facebook Messenger, and as Beth would say, “Voila!”

Speaking of Messenger, one way all three of us kids connect with our Dad is through Facebook Messenger. Yep, it is a form of instant messaging, or… wait for it… texting. So, even though it may have its downside, it has allowed us to stay in touch and share pictures as a family. Speaking of pictures…

Sometimes it takes a wedding or big life event, but we have a great time when we're together.

Snap That Picture

A photographer once told me that no matter how large your family gets, always get pictures with just the immediate family. I could take it one step further, don’t forget to take photos of yourself with them. In this age of selfies, I also encourage you to grab someone else to take a picture of all of you now and then. Also, go old school and print some of them out. When the girls were younger, we videotaped everything… yes pretty much everything! And made copies and sent them to our parents. Now, we get that text message with the 30-second video of an engagement, baby dancing, or the dog snoring. As a military family, it has always been important for us to stay involved and keep our family involved through pictures and videos.

I used to create scrapbooks with the tickets, photos, and mementos from our family trips. This was one way to share our memories and cherish those times together. I no longer have time for such elaborate scrapbooks. Thank goodness for the apps that help us to keep those memories now.

As our children have grown and are both now married, we still take pictures of just the four of us, or just the girls together. But don’t get me wrong. I love those boys, and the photos of all of us together are some of my favorites.

Friends We Adopt

We are born into our families, but the Air Force has a funny way of adding to it ten-fold. One thing is certain; military life can teach you a lot of things about connecting with others quickly. Our challenge was helping our girls to understand friendship isn’t a given and it takes commitment and sometimes hard work. Some relationships will continue and strengthen through the years; others, you will learn, only served the purpose as long as you served at that station or base. Some friends are tried and true. Those are the ones we adopt into our families.

It is the family of 5 that lives in your basement for weeks before they move away, and you miss them the second they move into billeting. Standing in the kitchen crying, you get a call, “Can we come back?” And at least for two more weeks, you have your family back in the house again. Or when you retire suddenly, and none of your “real” family can be there to support you, in step the friends that have your back no matter what and still do! These are the friends that become your family, the ones we adopt.

Passing It On…

Raising our girls, we wanted them to realize that family is important, and sometimes you need to bring others into the family. Our hearts are able to love many people; it isn’t limited. It has absolutely nothing to do with being military or a brat, but the experiences and travel just make it richer.

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