Military Village Project – Toddler Edition
There’s a subject that has been on my mind for some time. Honestly it’s been on my mind since our first duty station with kids and stays with me and in my heart every move since (coming up on 5 kid moves, but who’s counting!). There is much to be written about the military family and our lives, particularly since that has been a platform for the current First Lady and with the constant and continuous deployments since 9/11. As a military wife and family member I appreciate this focus and the awareness to this unique life. It is most assuredly not for the faint of heart that’s for sure! There are some great organizations that provide assistance, advocacy and a voice to our community like the National Military Family Association, Blue Star Families, Military Families United and the list goes on.
One facet and aspect that I find not covered regularly and often overlooked is the life of military kids and the friends they make. Military children are in a unique situation. Every 1-3 years they are plucked up from the life they know and moved hundreds and thousands of miles away, placed in an unknown area and we parents say “ok, go find some friends”. Ha! But you know what? They do and they get good at it and quite honestly I think it makes them more confident, flexible people.
What happens is absolutely amazing to watch. They go from saying “hi, I’m Ella/Maya” to swimming in tears within a year or two when they are faced with saying goodbye. These friends become their family. Our children don’t get the advantage of growing up with cousins. These friends become their cousins. Sunday dinners aren’t spent with grandma, grandpa and aunts/uncles, but they are spent with “Aunt” Kathy and Chris, “Uncle” Mark and Ryan and their cousins. We celebrate birthdays, births, communions, promotions and welcome homes together. We are one giant family.
As we enter PCS season (for you civilians that’s Permanent Change of Station, i.e. moving away again) I wanted to embark on a photo project with these kids and their friends before they say goodbye. I am photographing our neighbors with their good buddies and asking them questions about their friends so they can take these with them and remember them down the road as they grow up. I started with the littlest of friends because, well, I like a good challenge! Some may say that these little ones aren’t going to remember their friends and honestly they’re right – they won’t. What they will do is point to their friend Porter’s house when they want to play with him, but he’s the first one moving. They also sense change and tend to give big giant hugs even when they may not be sure why.
Little Miss J (far right) had some help from her mom filling out my questionnaire and said that her favorite thing to play with her friends is “walking around and looking at each other” and the nicest thing she has done for her friends is “dropping snacks for them to eat”!! Ain’t that the truth with toddlers!
I absolutely love going to the cul de sac to watch these little ones. They share, they fight, they hug, they cry. But they love each other. Maybe they love a little too much?!!
On a side note – have you tried wrangling 5 toddlers all at once??!! Luckily I was already sweaty going into the photos because I earned my sweat chasing these guys around the field!
Of course sometimes toddlers go rogue and prefer to play with sticks rather than their buddies. J’s mom said that the best thing he likes about his friends is their snacks – I found this to be true during the photos as well!
I was happy a couple of the preschoolers joined us that day too. These little boys will remember each other. Not forever, but they will definitely have good memories of playing together while being Japan. They like playing baseball, wrestling and swords together. S’s favorite thing about his friend J is that he shares his toys and his house with him. He said the nicest thing he has done for J is that he did not hit him today!! Haha!
I already get teary thinking about my own goodbyes and full on crying thinking of these kiddos saying goodbye to their friends. They are saying goodbye to family and it’s so hard for them to fully comprehend beyond just not being able to run across the street to their friend’s house.
Thank you for taking the time to read about this project. It will be ongoing over the next several weeks and months. Tomorrow I’m taking on bigger kids and excited to see them posing with their good buddies for the camera!