It’s April, my favorite month here in Texas…when the bluebonnets take over highway medians and hilltops, the month we go strawberry picking, the month that’s never too hot or too cold; and the only month of the year my husband has consistently been home with us since we married.
April is also the month devoted to honoring our precious military children.
Last April, our family was deep in the honeymoon stage of redeployment. I was focused on experiencing the joy of having our family whole again, resting my head on the doorframe as I watched my husband read bedtime stories to our son, sneaking videos through the window above the kitchen sink as he pushed our son around on the lawn mower and chased our dog around the yard like a little boy; and celebrating the day our son learned to walk, my husband cheering beside me.
It’s this time of year I find myself reading a lot of pieces written on the difficulties and challenges our children face as they live a life they never chose, but were born into...a life of uprooting and too many goodbyes and learning resilience before the letters of the alphabet.
It is undeniable that our children face unique challenges growing up in a military family;
But this April, I want to recognize the military children around the world by celebrating the lives they were each born into...the family, the culture, and the environment they have the honor of being a part of. While we have certainly faced hard times as a family--and we know many similar times lie ahead--I choose to spend this April remembering how lucky our son is to have a soldier as his father, among the other military men in our family who all serve as examples to my little boy that will shape him as he grows into a man himself someday.
It is both a privilege and an overwhelming responsibility to be the mother of a boy in today’s society and I am nothing but thankful for the military environment and family to help me do so.
I am thankful for the example of a man my son sees in his father each day.
Our son wakes up every day to see his dad walk in the door from a long early morning workout--sweaty, smelly, ready to inhale a large plate of eggs and toast. He sees his dad go take a shower and then get squared away for the day shaving his stubble and combing his hair, placing his patches so they are just so, lacing up his boots, and getting out the door at precisely the right time so he is not late. And then he does it again the next day and the next and the next. He watches as his sleepy-eyed dad gets out of bed on a Saturday earlier than he’d like to, devoting his day to being a family man, a father. And then again on Sunday, rising to take his family to church.
Our son is a military child, and because of that he gets to see an example of a hard working man: one who is disciplined, takes care of himself, does his duties and does them well, and comes home and takes care of his family. I couldn’t ask more for my son to see as an example of a man.
I am thankful for the other military men in our family.
Our son’s grandfather, my father-in-law, was in the Army for twenty six years, and his great grandfather in the Air Force for almost just as long. These are two other men in our family who spent their career serving their country and in doing so, shaped the lives of their children, and now grandchildren...and great grandchildren.
I am thankful for all of the strong men in our family who are true examples to our son of what manly men look like. They are leaders in their community and in their homes. They love Jesus. And they are all men I’ve seen cry, more than just once, because they’ve been raised as humans and taught it’s okay to show emotion, too.
Our son gets to see it all, because they’re the whole package.
I am thankful for the military culture and environment.
As our son grows into his toddler years, I only become more grateful that God has planted our family in such a healthy and natural environment for a little boy to grow up in...an environment filled with people who love our country, who embody a sense of duty and family and honor; and not to mention--a place filled with cool tanks and helicopters and trucks and loud booms and everything else little boy dreams are made of. My son learned how to distinguish between a Chinook and a Black Hawk helicopter before he could name a square or triangle.
It is an honor as a wife to be a part of the military community, but my gratitude and pride have only grown more in becoming a military parent. I am so thankful for the man I married and the parents who raised him, and the parents who raised them. I’m thankful for a husband who is the symbol of strength and masculinity in our home, the man my son wants to be when he grows up.
At age two, our son is good at thanking the Lord each night for the little blessings in his life: ice cream, goats, Papa’s four-wheeler, strawberries, cars and trucks and bulldozers. But I know one day, he’ll get on his knees and thank God for his Daddy and all that he learned from him.
This April, I hope I can be an encouragement to other military parents out there to be mindful of the blessing it is to have a child growing up in a military family. Yes, our children are going to have hard days we can’t protect them from, and it already fills me with sadness imagining all the goodbyes and uncomfortable new beginnings ahead; but, I find peace in knowing that our son is on a path to learning some of the most important life skills there are… like how to grow wherever he’s planted, how to cling to the right constants: God and family, and what it is to be a man.
And I’m thankful that he wants to be just like Dad, because that’s my biggest dream for him, too.