Earlier this week it came to light that a high school in Fairfax County in Virginia played ‘privilege’ bingo where one of the squares was “military kid.” Many have been outraged but as a former military kid and the mother of two military kids, I couldn’t agree more — it is a privilege to be a military kid.
Military kids have the privilege of learning what it means to sacrifice for our country at a very young age. Having your mom or dad miss important life moments is an opportunity to grow and learn life skills. It is a gift to learn how to cope with worrying if the person you love is safe while going about your everyday activities especially over the last two decades of war and endless deployments. It’s so luxurious that only a mere 25% or 1 in 4 military children have an emotional-behavioral challenge associated with deployment. Negotiating the challenges of adolescence is a breeze when your loved one is potentially taking fire in a foreign land!
There’s also the luxury of uprooting and moving every couple of years. Such endless churning and relocation gives military kids the chance to see so much of the world and live-in affordable housing managed by an effective public-private partnership. What’s a little fuel-contaminated water, deceit, or mold when you have the privilege of living in places like Hawaii?
Not to mention, the interpersonal abilities that military kids must rapidly acquire in order to fit into new places and make new friends. Moving at a rate over twice as frequently as their civilian friends, mobility is the new stability. It is a privilege as a parent to explain the extravagance of unpredictability. Speaking personally, my 8-and 9-year-old daughters have gone to four different elementary schools. Those tears they’ve cried every time they’ve had to say goodbye to friends and fret over making new ones — pure growth in action.
Also, many military kids have the luxury to learn about not indulging through food insecurity. With 29% of our most junior enlisted ranks struggling to feed their families while also serving our nation, military kids learn early about how much our government cares about the men and women who volunteer to wear a uniform. That’s also a treat you don’t get to taste but you do get to feel. Don’t even get me started on the privilege of being a military spouse and being chronically underemployed or unemployed.
Tongue-in-cheek aside, military spouses and military children are extraordinarily resilient. Military kids are frequently able to adapt and overcome many of the demands posed by a turbulent life. However, the framing of their way of life as a privilege obscures the very real challenges that military life poses. It also falls prey to the current societal fad of placing people in categories of victim and victimizer.
We must stop doing this to our children. It’s damaging and it’s become increasingly clear that our kids are not alright as their mental health needs surge. It is imperative our educators work towards building community and commonality amongst our children rather than pitting them against one another. The only way forward through such tumultuous times is highlighting all that unites us as citizens and patriots which is a sentiment I did have the privilege of learning as a military kid.