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Military Parents Express Concern about Raising Children in the Military

The article, “What Military Children Won’t Tell You About Being Asked, ‘Where Are You From?’” quotes military children who responded to the question, “How do you feel about being asked, ‘Where are you from?’” The overwhelming majority don’t like the question. Their responses created concern for some parents who are not themselves military children. The most concise example of this concern was written by Army wife “KMC.” On her blog, Today I Wanted, she writes, “I wasn’t expecting this article to […] make me feel sad for our children. […] I am saddened, because our children won’t be able to experience the life that we did.”

The intention of the “Where Are You From?” article was to give military kids a voice for one aspect of their lives. It was not to cause concern. As its author and mother of three grown Marine Corps kids, I’d like to put some parental minds at ease by addressing the “from” question, the impact of military life on childhood, how much power you really do have as a parent, and just how much knowledge is at your fingertips. i hope this will set some parental minds at ease. To this end, one of the military kids who contributed to the article, Shawn, an Army brat, also lends a voice here.

The kids who contributed to the “from” article are 16 and older. I didn’t ask younger kids because they’re rarely asked the question and generally don’t understand it. If a younger child is asked this question, the parent should answer for them because that guides the child and helps them mold an answer of their own.

Shawn: “As a kid I often said, ‘My family is from Kansas.’ Or some variant. This probably was based off of Dad’s claim to being a Kansas farm boy. In some ways the answer was a cop out, but it was an anchor of sorts, too.”

Comedienne Paula Poundstone once said adults ask kids what they want to be when they grow up – because they’re looking for ideas! Many military parents don’t answer for their youngster when someone asks the child, “Where are you from?” and instead wait to hear what their child will say – because they’re looking for ideas!

Shawn: “The question rarely comes up among children in a military community. We might ask, ‘Where did you move from?’ as a way of learning about the new kids, and then springboard to all the different places all of us had ever lived. I don’t recall being bothered by it until we first lived in a civilian setting and even then it was part and parcel of a bigger culture shock.”

In light of the concerns younger military parents have expressed, there are three important distinctions to be made between what the kids in the article said and what a lot of parents seem to have heard.

1) Any distaste the military child feels about the question of “from” isn’t because of the question itself. It’s because of the number of times they’ve come across a questioner who wouldn’t accept their answer.

Several commenters on the article (here and on other sites where it was reposted) have said, “What’s the big deal? Just say ‘X’ and be done with it.” This sounds good in theory and in fact sometimes it does work, but as the kids quoted in the article pointed out, their answer is rarely accepted at face value. This is why they don’t like the question: A lot of people won’t take “X” for an answer, especially if “X”=”everywhere.” As the parent of a younger child, you are in the perfect position to teach others that “X,” no matter what it equals, is a valid answer.

About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps. For extra fun, follow her on Twitter.
  • Lisa Smith Molinari

    Diana, like you, I was raised in one town but my three Navy brat kids were raised in many towns. Moving was not a problem for my kids when they were little, but it gets harder when they are teens. My oldest is 16, so social life is paramount and I worry about him fitting in and being a well-adjusted kid. On the other hand, when I was 16, I would have loved to have the opportunity to move to some exciting place and reinvent myself. In my hometown, I was dubbed the chunky class clown in the third grade – a reputation that stuck with me until I graduated high school! Needless to say, I had a hard time finding prom dates!

  • Terri Barnes

    Diana, Thank you for pointing out that military children are not to be pitied — least of all by their parents. Our attitude as military parents about the life we lead and the way we speak to our children about it totally shapes the way they respond to a mobile childhood.
    Civilians have asked me “Don’t you worry about your kids?” How do you answer a question like that? With the same question turned back to them: “Don’t you worry about YOUR kids?” We all do for some reason or another.
    Military life, although difficult, is not intrinsically bad for kids. Parents with their own unresolved issues with military life might be.
    I admit I’ve had some qualms about moving my children. Some moves are just plain hard. But no life is without difficulty, and difficulty can always be an opportunity to learn.
    In my view, with good parenting, military life is one of the best possible worlds. But I don’t claim to be unbiased!

  • CJ Wallington

    I never thought to ask my kids where they were from, nor did I ever hear anyone ask (but if I had, I too would have let them answer for themselves). When I retired after 23 years of service, I introduced my kids by age and the number of different homes they’d lived in (14 years – 10 homes, 12 years – 9 homes, 10 years – 7 homes), then thanked them all for living like a band of gypsies. I knew they adapted to the constant change when one asked “when are we moving again? I’m bored with this house…”. Non-moving families don’t know what they’re missing out on.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Amen! I strongly feel that for the majority of military brats, the experience had far more pluses than minuses – especially the free health care, the cultural exposure, the fact that one’s parent[s] is/are exposed to so much safety training and counseling training that they are often better equipped to understand their kids…and the latter is particularly true of military supervisors who are far better able to handle their teenagers after having had to deal with teenagers in the military for years and years.

    To be sure, there are kids who have bad experiences being a military brat – but the vast majority are better off, hands down.

  • Kim Gilbert

    Odd, I was just feeling sorry for my kiddos the other day. We have had no snow to speak of at all this winter. no sledding, no skidding, no nothing. One of my four asked me to tell them about being in Connecticut as a kid. I did. Then another asked for a story from Hawaii. I felt sad that my children who have had all the “stability” we once longed for, long for the variety I had.Your right, my childhood is not theirs and theirs is not mine. That is not a bad thing though. I say embrace your own life and bloom where your planted, or transplanted!