Honor and Courage for Military Kids

May 15, 2011

 

The other day I was pursuing two  blogs written by Military mothers raising little ones as a spouse is deployed. This is something I do occasionally, to keep in touch with what people are experiencing and especially what the littlest members of the family are going through.

In these two blogs, each family had more than one child. In both families the children were very connected to the father, who was the deployed parent. Both mothers stated that the children had a very hard time with the separation, and the anticiaption of it before it happened. They also shared the children’s behaviors, of crying, searching for daddy, and angry oubursts.

Then came the differences. Parent A,  summarized with saying that her children would be forever wounded by this absence and that she was having a hard time accepting her role as single parent while her husband was away.

Parent B,  looked for creative ways to make the deployment a focused time of keeping the father in the children’s’ lives. She did things like placing pictures at child eye level and making a jar with daddy’s picture on it and giving them  a kiss goodnight from daddy before bed (a sweet Hershey kiss). This family was able to settle in, and though deployment was hard, it became manageable. The children were able to go on and be happy most of the time.

It was not those little things she did that grabbed my attention though. This parent stated something profound …the children in family B were proud that Daddy was a soldier. Mother B was too, and let them know  in no uncertain terms, what an honor it was to be a Military Family. Now I am not saying the parent A was not proud of her husband, just that it was not the focus, as it was in family B.

No one will argue that the military life is ever changing, but we do not believe it is unstable just because there is an absence for a time (sometimes a long time) . The attitude of the parent directly effects the children.

This is the core of the matter. We all need purpose in life. To know our purpose is a gift that allows us to endure sacrifice with honor and courage.  Spouses who are proud of the service thier loved one provides this country, are more likely to stay married and to find the adventure in being a  Military family. Those who are fearful, unsure of  the relationship and unhappy, generally do not survive.

Divorce in the Military has high numbers because we live in a “me first” time ,and are encouraged to find ourselves outside the marriage relationship. Sadly this is transfered to our children who are told they are “being cheated’ while a deployment is under way, rather than honored by a larger purpose outside themselves.

If the family can feel and embrace this larger purpose, they will weather the deployments, the changes, the reunions, and find a stronger and more bonded life within the Miltiary.

Paula and I have a mission statement :We Serve Too ! Honor and Courage for Military Kids! We hope that our resources help children and their parents embrace that badge of courage and honor they most bravely earn.

Every Month for Military Kids

April 27, 2011

 

 

The month of the Military Child is coming to a close. We have thought of ways to celebrate the resiliency of kids who learn to wait for a parent to return, who move frequently from friends and extended family, who can’t feel roots, though they test their wings in ways most children never do.

They sleep with bears that speak with the voice of a deployed parent, on pillows with that parents picture. They wear dog tags that say “I will be strong and courageous” and strong and courageous they are.

We cannot forget the children. April is a great month to celebrate them, but please remember, parents are deployed every month of the year, and children wait at home.

If you know a Miltiary Family, look out for the kids. Offer to help with homework, take them for ice cream, tell them you know it is not easy.

Kids are resilient, but not made of stone. Tears are good sometimes and a listening ear a comfort to the heart.

If you are a teacher and have a Military child in your class, perhaps you can make a point of having the class send notes, or artwork occasionally to that child’s parent. It will please the parent,  and create a belonging and sharing in your class that can  help that child feel less alone.

If you are a parent, remember that though your children are very close to you, you need to talk about problems and difficulties with another caring adult. You are the rock while your spouse is away, and children need to feel secure. The temptation to share too much with a child is there, as you feel alone too, but there are many people willing to help you if you reach out to your church, your friends, family or other Military Families who know what you are going through.

Children need to stay connected. There are many good resources to help you guide a child in creative and fun ways to stay in touch with a deployed parent. The resources at We Serve Too! are designed with this in mind. These resources can be found at  at http://weservetoo.com/

Lets remember to celebrate these wonderful kids, and not just in April!

 

Can writing help kids through deployment?

December 16, 2010

I have recently been made aware again, the power of writing , and the power that comes from that kind of expression. To talk about this way of making ourselves known, is one that we as parents ,grandparents , and teachers ,should ponder.

As a child ,writing became important in my own life, as I found a voice through those marks on paper. I found that I could move a heart, change an opinion, awaken an idea, explain the world from my own perspective (sometimes to myself!).

Here is a  poem written by : Leslie Slutzkey when she was in the 8th grade. As a young girl, her desire for freedom can be felt by many a young heart:

Being Me
I wish I could be me,
Feeling Free.
Like a bird,
Without a word.
Running wild,
Like a young child.
Loving, sharing,
Always caring.
Please G-d bless me,
So that I may be free.
I wish I could be me,
Feeling Free.

Leslie is now grown, a woman. She has agreed to allow me to share this, in hopes that other children may think about the healing powers of words.
Can you imagine the open door that words can give a child who is hurting from the losses of life? What if they could put that hurt on paper, and make it into story, or song, or poem? Could that be the way out of the shell that many wrap around their hearts? To share a common grief and make it into a created thing that could touch others and change how they see things is indeed powerful.
Perhaps to make a song out of a sadness, so that others who also miss a treasured parent, could say, “yes, that is how I feel too!” I am not alone. “
A journal is a gift that a child can use to document, share, and look at life. You can teach them that a journal is not an everyday list of what they did, but a living documentary of that which was important.
Writing can reveal the choosing of priorities and they will even get a glimpse of the way they see the world. A journal does not only need to be just written words, it can be scraps of life: a ticket to an event glued into the pages, coupled with the things they learned, and the people they shared it with.
Photographs are good memory joggers , as are quick drawings or small paintings. A crayon rendition of the flowers that came up in the garden, gives them a page to show to a parent who has returned home, and a glimpse into the heart of the child who shows it.
How to begin? A nice journal (I like blank pages) to get started, pens and pencils, and other art materials. Perhaps a sheet of ideas to get them started with questions like: How do you feel when Dad is deployed? What do you think is the best thing about being a Military kid, the worst thing?   Questions that make them think about who they are, what they believe and how they can create a way for others to share their visions.
Leslie’s poem says  to me: ” I want freedom”" but the child does not know how to find it. Perhaps a child had too much responsibility having to grow up too fast and take on too much. Many of our Military kids can relate to that. You may see something else in it. That is the beauty of poetry, you bring to it, your own life experiences or see something that speaks to you .
Healing can be found in those words, pictures and songs that come from the heart.
There is a  desire in within all of us for discovering our purpose, and our belonging in this life. A journal can open our eyes to what we are missing and what we are gaining .
Have you ever written a journal? Did you have any writings that you treasure and that revealed to you something new about yourself? If so , we would love to hear your story!
If you have a child who has written a story, song or poem, or done artwork that has to do with their experience as a Military Child, we would love to post it on our website on our kids page! Directions are there for you, and one  child a month will be drawn to receive a we serve too dog tag in the mail! http://weservetoo.com/featured-kids-and-stories/


Birthdays…while parents are away

October 8, 2010

My grandson just turned 6. His daddy, who is far away in Germany, asked me to find the perfect gift. You know how that is, the parent is far from home and wants the gift to be spectacular, since they are missing all the festivities. There is something about it too, that we think we have to make up for the lost time with something memorable.

I noticed when I got to the store that most of the toys I saw would last about 5 minutes. Our boy is like his dad used to be, full of energy and likely to toss something just to see what happens when it hits. I think that most boys fit this description. Toy manufacturers also know and it too and it seems they create toys that will require you to replace it with another one, the very day of the birthday party!
As I crusied the aisles of Target, I finally came to the conclusion that the child would have to get something real.

The end result of all this,was a real two man tent (29.95) and a canteen (5.95), along with a set of tupperware containers to make collections in (3.95) (you know, rocks, cool other stuff and with a few holes in the top …bugs!) So for about 40.00, (the cost of any of the plastic breakables) my grandson got a gift that could be used for years and would make a fine thing to sleep in when Dad gets home!

Our grandson was thrilled with the tent which was set up in our living room. He and his sister slept in it. Now I have to figure out what wonderful gift from Daddy my granddaughter will get for her birthday!

September 11, What should Kids know?

September 8, 2010

Though September 11th is burned into the consciousness of nearly every adult American, our young children were not here then. Unless they were about 5 or 6 in 2001, they will have no recollection of the national grief and fear that you and I know all too well.

What should they know? What do we tell tender little ones that will not frighten them, but give them a sense of the weight of the day, but more, the questions of honor, protection, and what is worth fighting for?

Remembering is something that we need to do as a nation. In Biblical times, the nation of Israel would build piles of stones to remember things that were important so they could tell their children. The reason they did that is because human beings have fairly short memories, and life moves forward quickly. Without teaching our children that memorials are important, they will lose their history and some meaningful pondering of life. Memorials are important to bring together people who have shared an experience and then the question, what can be learned from it, what does it mean to us?

Children can be told more with age. For our little ones I suggest that you stay on the positives, and not detail too much of the fear. Answer the questions children ask honestly, but simply. You do not need to go into the politics, or the graphics with kids. Do not ignore the bad part, but don’t accentuate it. A simple answer to what happened on 9/11 might simply be that some bad people made some big towers fall in New York City, then tell them that there were many people who were there to help.

Here are some things that you may want to share with your little ones:

*Talk to them about the heroes of 9/11. Here is a website to help you with that: www.9-11heroes.us

*Talk about resiliency and that we bounce back after bad things happen. Here are plans for the site of the towers http://www.national911memorial.org

*On September 11th, we remember the people who work to keep us safe. They are soldiers and airmen, they are marines and sailors, coast guard and policemen, they are fireman and doctors. Our country is made up of many kinds of people, they are all Americans and they are the ones who are there when you need help, or when we all need protection.

*Today we remember that sometimes when bad things happen, we learn to come together and fight for what is right. We learn that we are America, and we have a long history of being there for others in the world. We protect others as well as our own people.

*Do something to help your children with expressions of gratitude. Make some cookies and bring them to your local firehouse, draw pictures of police, firefighters, and others who are protectors and give them your pictures. Send a letter to a soldier overseas and express your thankfulness for the sacrificial work they do. Here is a website where you and thank a soldier right now! http://action.uso.org/action/sem-thank-you?sc=OM-google-p_Support-search_ThankyouLetter

Children can understand honor, courage. Help kids to appreciate what it means to be an American. The gifts that we have as a people, and the wonderful country God has given us. Teach them that there are people that want to reach out, that being brave does not mean we are not scared, but that we push through it and help anyway.

Business of Summer, to enjoy!

July 31, 2010

I have not written in quite a while, mainly because the summer has demanded that hot days be dealt with by a dip in the pool, a bike ride under some shady trees, travelling to see family, or watching grandchildren run through the sprinkler. I know that the days are short and another summer has nearly slipped past. My little ones are getting ready to return to school far too soon.

The heralding of school still puts me in mind of the future and change. Remember when that meant new school clothes, unsharpened pencils and that pink eraser in a little zippered pouch? Then the clean notebook paper, that would become a burden later to fill, but right now held only the pristine whiteness that said we would learn something new and would write things that we could not yet imagine?

I know the calendar has not yet even turned to August, but our two go back the 16th!

I need to learn to live in the moment. To realize that I should now be intentional about what last things I can eke out these passing summer days. I want to make a trip to the mountains, to see the streams and smell the pine. I want to get the kids to do a couple of new art projects (Devon won first place in our local art show this summer!)

What things are your children experiencing in these final summer days? Things do not need to cost money, so here is a list of low cost ways to make those days a little more festive:
A walk in the park, a free dog show, or petting zoo.
Our town has free movies in the parks, see if your town has a schedule of events
Lay on your back in the yard and imagine pictures in the clouds…then make up a story.
Read a story in the shade
take a ride in the wagon after dark and listen for crickets
we filled our hot tub with cool water and left the heater off, makes a nice pool!
Take some little cars out under the trees and make a town with roads in the dirt
Go to the farmers market and let the kids pick a vegetable they have never tried.

I hope the rest of your summer is full of great memories. The kids will remember the little things more than even the big things, don’t believe me? Do you remember the sound of the Popsicle truck? Check the rest of your childhood summer memories, I think you will be surprised!

Summer boredom, creativity and kids…

June 23, 2010

I am thinking of this today because of my own lack of silence and a need to turn off the noise and busyness, with not much knowledge about how to do that. I was thinking about summers when I was a kid.
There is an old saying about the lazy, hazy days of summer, and for all practical purposes those are gone. Now in their place are plans, lessons, travel, summer homework, television, video games, computer hours.

The fallout from all these options of things that capture the mind and attention, is the loss of something wonderful.
Maybe some of you are old enough to remember when adults were unconcerned about what we wanted to do, and had little or no guilt about just letting us be kids. no thoughts of enrichment, furthering our educational goals, and the outcome was creativity.

We got bored. Seriously bored. I would sit with neighbor kids under the shade of the willow tree in the backyard, just laying in the grass. “Whadda ya wanna do?”" I dunno, whadda you wanna do?”

Then would come the listing…we could, ride bikes “nah, too hot”, we could color, nah, wanna play army? ( this would mean the sandbox, getting out all the army men and some trucks, using pieces of wood to build walls and bricks to make a higher lookout point etc.. or getting broomsticks for rifles and chasing each other around.) Maybe we would then decide maybe we wanted to have ice cream, because the silence allowed us to hear the ice cream truck a few blocks away. After being refused money for ice cream by our parents, we thought maybe a lemonade stand would let us have ice cream tomorrow…yeah! “I’ll make the sign, you got crayons?” then we would go house to house to find the stuff we needed, a table, water, lemonade mix or real lemons…then we would not have the adults make the lemonade, we did it, we came up with a new recipe…sometimes sale-able , sometimes not.

Boredom + dreaming = creativity. This is true of children and adults. We go at breakneck speed thinking that we have to get this and that done…or we schedule every waking moment for our kids and then wonder why they don’t know how to play.

I have not been very creative lately, I’ve had too much to do. Can we stop and take some time to sit beneath a tree, dangle our toes in the water, hear the crickets at night, watch fireflies, listen to a robins song from her nest…and what if we get bored…will we think of something wonderful, or fill the time with pre-packaged games and lose that gift?

Maybe you could give a gift to yourself and your kids today. Tell them no Tv, or anything electronic. No lessons today, just a day to “be” . They will groan, and whine, but hold your ground. Just lay around and let it happen. I think if you give them several of these days this summer, they will find, and so will you, that the mind and heart become engaged in life again, and who knows what you will do!

Memorial Day for children: Thank You Soldiers song

April 25, 2010

kids sing thank youMemorial Day for children: Thank You Soldiers song.

Check this out, click on the title above and listen to a beautiful song of thanks to our Military, sung by children. I know you will love it. Mommylife.net offers the music free to teachers and parents who want to teach this to your little ones for the celebration!

Watch your kids cartoons…It’s not funny

April 23, 2010

Hi,
Last night I spent some time watching cartoons with my two grandchildren. It was not fun. I ended up turning off the TV and insisting that a bath was a better use of time, making me the unpopular grandma for the evening. I think that parents think cartoons are like they used to be, cute, funny and a pleasant distraction that allows the grownups to get a few chores done while the kids are fairly safe for a moment. Not so anymore.

The show we were watching was called Back at the Barnyard, on Nickelodeon. I will pick on this one, but believe me, it is not alone. Many cartoons I have found are dark, with adult innuendos and blatant disrespect. Don’t try telling me that the kids don’t understand these innuendos. You would have been right years ago, but no more, our little ones are exposed to so much, that some are nearly adults before they learn to walk.

OK, here is what I saw last night. A cow that has pickup lines and tries to seduce another barnyard animal. A cow explaining that she has a date not because she wants to, but because the person buys her stuff (nice thing to teach) . Later on this date, with a nasty acting boy who is overweight with braces (talk about stereotype and encouraging kids to be mean ) she says she is feigning interest in her date and asks him about his parents. Then, the kid begins venomously spouting , that he hates his Dad (another nice moral value) the reason? because he is a clown (that is his job)…off went the TV . I have noticed that several cartoons that are pretty popular, have the theme that parents are stupid, and kids barely tolerate them.

I hope this little commentary will send you to the TV with your kids for an evaluation of your own. Kids are learning disrespect, lying, fabricating stories to get their own way, complaining, self centerdness, rudeness, partying, and unkind behaviors, all while we are doing the dishes, thinking they are safe and happy for the moment.

Are there good cartoons? Of course, but be careful, they are mainly the older ones reflecting a time when it was considered important to extend values and morals to kids. It seems the prevailing idea now is to give kids what their little hearts desire including plenty of gags that have to do with bathroom humor ( and yes all kids like that, and always have). The difference between then and now is, that kids were taught that those things are not best, and they were taught not only by parents but by the culture. The culture has switched gears in the opposite direction. Now it is up to parents to teach what they believe is right.

I can hear you saying, come on Kathleen, it is just cartoons, besides you are an old fashioned grandma. Maybe, but I bet if you really take a look at what the kids are looking at, you might not find it so funny.

New Idea for Military Kids connecting to a deployed parent!

April 10, 2010

Operation We Are Here http://www.operationwearehere.com/BratTownBugle.html has come up with a wonderful free download to make connecting fun for kids and their military parents!

At home, you can choose from many different pages, print and let the kids get creative! A garden page can tell all about what you are planting this spring. The sports page lets kids tell all about the soccer game or skating lesson. You can choose to make the front page news that your child got a good report card, helped the neighbors or sang in church.

There are endless possibilities for both parent and child to work together, and since it is a bit more structured, you eliminate the “I don’t know what to say” dilemma.
Created by a Military wife and mother, brat town is an inspired idea. Hope you take advantage of a fun project for your family!