Did you miss my latest article over at Military1?
How to be a great military parent: On top of the challenges of being married to an active duty service member, bad parenting days can feel like the final straw if you lose the long view.
Do you ever look at your kids and think, Wow, they’re just like me? Usually when I’m thinking that, it’s when I see my “not so great” qualities reflected, like needing to be in control and be right. Of course, it doesn’t help that school has been out for a couple months, or that we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time together since we recently moved from the West Coast to the East Coast.
Sometimes I think it’s because my kids are four years apart and my daughter so desperately wants to spend time with her much cooler older brother, and conversely the older brother wants to escape the clutches of his whiny little sister.
I watch each of them wanting to lead so desperately and think about how someday, these leadership skills will come in handy when they’re faced with peer pressure or challenging situations as an adult – but right now it’s a grueling process.
I’m a huge fan of Servant Leadership. As a parent, I serve my kids daily, unquestionably, and go above and beyond (like most other parents), exhausting myself in the process. I wonder, How can they not follow my example and give to one another like I give to them? Of course, they’re kids and they’re hardwired to be egocentric, possibly from an innate survival standpoint, but I find myself questioning my parenting techniques.
I’m doing what I should be doing as a parent: playing with them, being present, being a good example. My husband and I have a great marriage and don’t yell or pick on one another. Where are they learning to treat one another like this?
I know I’m not alone. Living in base housing provides a wonderful snapshot of children brought together from diverse parents and communities. I’ve discovered the majority of neighborhood kids also happen to have dominant personalities like our kids. Why is this? I believe it’s because our Armed Forces draw in individuals who excel in leadership and charisma, often with Type-A personalities.
Those same service members actively seek out partners who are also leaders, capable of taking care of everything in their absence by being task-maskers extraordinaire while running the home, volunteering, working, and more. It makes sense that we are going to produce offspring who are just like us.
Sometimes, raising a fire team isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be and can take a toll on our self-esteem. Couple that with the challenges of being married to an active duty service member, such as losing your career due to getting stationed in the middle of nowhere or frequently moving, and our parenting failures feel like the cherry on top of our proverbial cake.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
It doesn’t help that we are always comparing ourselves to others. There are good days and bad days, and those days when our kids are not their best selves we feel more vulnerable, maybe with a twinge of jealously as the kids next to us play together oh so sweetly.
But then there are those unmistakable highs, usually when they don’t think we are watching. We may catch our breath or shed a tear as they lovingly embrace one another just because, or stand up for one another or another child who is being picked on, or maybe just help each other out because it’s the right thing to do.
I can revel in the pride of serving our great nation on the home front, and I know the resilience this lifestyle has imparted in our kids. No amount of money spent can ever create great kids, and at the end of the day it comes down to me. Did I care enough? Did I listen enough? Did I do enough? Most days I can answer yes, and on those days where I’ve received a B-, I know I’ll have tomorrow to make it up to them.
I also need to remember to take care of myself in this process. I don’t want to forget who I am in the process of raising a family, or look at my husband at the end of his retirement and wonder who each of us is. It’s a difficult balance, and I hope at the end of my journey that I did enough, said enough. The truth is, I know I’m going to screw up and I’m going to hear about it someday. Hopefully it will be around a table, surrounded by love, laughter, and a shared bottle of a wine.