Shawn: "This is critical because so few military parents understand this (or at least not until their kids are grown and they have the benefit of hindsight). Actually, saying, 'I'm from everywhere' or 'I'm from America' or even my own knack of saying I'm from different places different days of the week is a point of pride amongst brats. It makes us different and in the teen years it is a part of defining ourselves. When people don't understand or belittle the answer it can feel like an attack on our identity."
The majority of the military child's experience revolves around the things that change (friends, schools, housing) and more importantly the things that don't change: Parental support, education, love, and family traditions the parents create and carry from one duty station to the next. As parents we take what we do for granted, but our children start looking for these signs as soon as the first box is unpacked.
They are glad to see holiday bins even as they complain about carrying them to storage. First-graders assume the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus know their new addresses, but third graders breathe a sigh of relief when they see evidence. For our kids, it's more than "where you hang your hat." It's movie night and going to the park after school every Wednesday. It's the fragrance of your laundry detergent and when dinner is served. Kids count on seeing the same lamp on the same end table near the same knick knacks by the same couch against a wall covered in the same pictures – even as the house around it all is different. This is what tells military children they're home. (This is also why, military or civilian, it's not "just stuff.")
Shawn: "It always mattered most to me to see the front rooms put together before the bedrooms. At least by the time I was old enough to think about it. The couch, the tables, the clock, the candles and the wooden cats that went on one end table had to be in place and then it was home. My own room was really secondary. I rearranged my own room all the time but the front rooms rarely changed and I did not want them to. And unpacking was always a party! It was fun being the one to 'find' the piggy banks [Grandpa] had bought us or the afghans Grandma had made, even the hand-crank egg-beater that we used when we made eggnog."