By Jaimi Erickson
As I write this, it is the Month of the Military Child. It also happens to be the month my oldest military kid was born. If asked where he is from, he is from the Marine Corps. His identity has been defined by military life. All of his close friends are current or former mil kids. It is the world he knows.
His dad was deployed for 12 months of his first 18 months of life. My son never asked to join the military. By being born into it, his life has been shaped by seasons. The seasons of life that a military child may experience are a roller coaster ride they never planned to navigate.
It is important to remember that we all have seasons in our lives — even military kids. Some duty stations provide more friends than others. The place and the people provide different opportunities. That all creates a changing dynamic for our children every time we move.
At one duty station, my son was always playing outside in the neighborhood with friends. I was amazed how many hours the kids would spend outside playing together. It was the iconic military kid experience for him.
At a previous base, he was just a bit too young to play with friends without me watching. We spent afternoons at the playground. Playdates were how we built a village for ourselves.
When we have that strong community, it is always hard to leave it. Each new PCS provides a new growth experience. But, we want to soak up the memories with our current friends, too.
Marking the event of an upcoming PCS does not have to be elaborate to be special. When preparing to move to a new base or location, simply celebrate where you are before you leave it.
Ideas for Celebrating Your Community Before You PCS
This quick list are some ideas you can use to mark the occasion of an upcoming move. Maybe close neighbors are retiring. Maybe your family is the only one moving on this year. Either way, celebrate the community you have with one of these fun ideas.
Neighborhood Block Party — Rent a bounce house or set up a couple of inflatable pools for the kids. Everyone brings a dish for one last get together before PCS season.
Water Play Day — This one is a great one for kids of all ages. Set up Slip ‘N Slides, sprinklers and water tables or pools. The kids will play for hours enjoying time together.
Small Potluck — If your community has included a couple other families who have always been there for each other, get together on a smaller scale. Host a potluck or pizza night where everyone attending chips in to mark the occasion together.
Beach Day/Pool Day — These are always fun. The kids have such vivid memories of pool days with their neighbor friends. Always a great time in the summer before close friends move.
Make Friendship Photo Books — I love photo books from companies that print and bind for you. You know, the ones that send coupons to your inbox right before Christmas card season. 😉 Make identical photo books for your children and their close friends. How fun it will be for them to have a keepsake of their time in that season of life.
Prep a Basket or Bin of Travel Activities — These are fun for your kids and their friends to send everyone off on their fun adventure. These are so easy to make and very affordable too. We used them on many cross-country PCS road-trips.
Check Out the Lejeune-New River PCS Guide for Kids — The guide contains great tips and ideas for celebrating where you are and where you are moving next. Great tips are included even if you are moving to a different base.
Looking Ahead to Your New Community
After all that, look ahead with optimism! These tips for making new friends at the next duty station are always important to remember.
That is a perk of military life. We collect friends along the way. Cherish the friends we make now, and we have the chance to make more every time we move.
At some bases, we are able to cultivate a community. Sometimes our home team (family) is our community. Despite these shifting seasons of military life, I choose to look for the positive.
The seasons of a military child (and military life in general) are unpredictable. If there is someone who understands military life as well as a military spouse, it is a military kid.
Seasons of life shift, but the seasons of a military child all lead to resilience. As a mom, I want to help my children focus on the positive of each place and celebrate it when we can.