Military life is hard for everyone…the service member, spouse, kiddos and other family members. But many people don’t understand the life of a step-child not born into the military life, but married in. My kiddos were five and three when I met my husband, they had never experienced the military life…their father is not and never was military.
My kiddos were born in Lawrence, Kansas and lived there until their father and I split up. We moved home to Colorado where I was born and raised and we all resumed living a civilian life. They went to the same school, lived in the same house and were down the street from my mom…they could go to grandmas whenever they wanted. My daughter had established close friendships with several girls from school who were of course part of civilian families as well. When my husband asked me to marry him…I was so head over heals in love with him and so were my kiddos, so of course I said YES! But I had no clue what I was getting myself into.
People tell me all the time, “you married a soldier…you knew what you were in for,” truthfully though, I really didn’t. I knew he was basically married to the Army and they always came first, he would deploy and there were those miserable ‘field problems’…. But until I really began to live it I was clueless. Mike and I were married in February of 2008 in my home town of Pueblo, CO. My whole family was there and his family all flew in from California. It was not an expensive wedding but it was fun, and all that mattered was I was marrying my soul mate. Mike was field artillery support when we met so I was no stranger to field problems, but the kiddos never got used to them. They could never understand why Mike left all the time…they never really got the opportunity to get to know him, nor he to get to know them. Mike did not have any kiddos from any previous relationships …so, my kiddos were becoming his. He had never been around children so he had to learn how to be a parent. I can’t imagine jumping into an established family and becoming an instant father…it was hard on him and the kiddos. We received word in October of 2010 we were PCSing to California…WAIT!!…I was not ready to move!! We owned our home, the kids went to the best school in Pueblo, they had friends, my family was down the street from us and NO NO NO…..I did not sign up for this!….Wrong….I was so wrong, I married a soldier who had to move when the Army told him to. My kiddos were devastated, they did not understand why their step-dad had to move us, why they had to leave my family and their friends…their established life.
They were both so young, Ali was 8 and Ethan was 5, way too young to understand. By the time Army kiddos are 8 and 5 they have usually already experienced a move or two, so they understand. Step-kiddos married into the Army don’t have that prior experience. At this moment…with the kiddos balling their eyes out, I wondered if I had made a mistake…I put my kiddos into this life, I made this decision, but did I have the right to speak for all of us? I now know it was not a mistake and so do they. The move to California was hard on all of us, but most of all on Ali. She wanted to be back in Pueblo close to my mom and her friends. She had a really hard time adjusting in Cali, she wanted to go home and she was not shy in saying so. She did not make friends right away, she felt different and was so scared. She withdrew from everything, my once loud, silly, energetic girl was shy and very sad. She was so angry with me for moving her and for marrying Mike, she wanted her civilian life back…and she wanted it bad. Well, our time in Cali passed very fast, Ali did make some very good friends as did Ethan and I. In fact most of the friends I made in Cali are civilians and we are still in contact with each other. We were only in Cali for 15 months and then off to North Carolina…Yep you guessed it Fort Bragg. Once again I had to grab my kiddos and move…Ali was not as mad this time as she was older and was getting used to the Army life. We arrived at Fort Bragg and Ali and Ethan began to meet new people. Ethan jumped right into travel baseball again and Ali into choir. She has a beautiful voice and she met some sweet friends at the middle school.
We were stationed at Fort Bragg for two and half years…and yes we all felt the pain of another deployment. I was told once you are stationed at Bragg you never leave…wrong…in August of 2014 we received word from the Army Mike was going to be a recruiter. Yep, another PCS was in our future. After Mike finished recruiting school in South Carolina, we once again had to fight back the tears, load the cars and make the journey back to California. Yes, we are now stationed back in Cali. The recruiting life is very different from the “regular” Army, we do not live on post, the commissary is over 30 miles away, the kiddos are back in civilian schools and yes they are the only military kiddos at their schools. But, the kids at Ethan’s school think Mike is the coolest man ever because he is in the Army…very cute.
The kiddos and Mike are still getting used to each other, he and I have been married for over seven years and it’s still a challenge with the kiddos. They have to go see their father in Kansas twice a year, but live with Mike and I the rest of the time. Mike is the male figure in their lives since their father is many states away. Mike tries his hardest but it’s difficult when you are a step-parent in the Army…Mike is never around. He is either in the field, deployed, at work or now recruiting new soldiers…it’s the life of a soldier. Being a soldier and a step-parent is hard, you never get to know the kiddos you now have and they never really get to know you.
So, if you marry a service member and you have children from a previous relationship or marriage, please be patient with all involved. This is a hard enough life…the military life, but even harder when you marry into it. Have patience and remember the one who married your already established family needs to get to know you as you do them. The one great thing about the Army is that regardless of whether you marry into it or are born into it, you are all treated the same. The Army is still there for the kids and never considered them step anything, they are now and always will be Army Kiddos!
Thank you to Bobbi Pack from MyMilitarySavings.com for sharing her personal story with us!