From the time I toddled around in droopy diapers, to the day I drove off to college in my VW Bug, I lived in one small Pennsylvania town. The kids who picked their noses next to me in Mrs. Rowley’s kindergarten class were the same ones who walked across the stage with me at our high school graduation. I had one hometown, one high school, one brick house, one yellow bedroom, and one best friend who I gabbed with each night on my one candlestick rotary phone while draped across my one mock brass twin bed.
By contrast, as a military child, our oldest went to three different high schools. He grew up in eight different homes, in three different states and two foreign countries. He has said goodbye to six different best friends, six different piano teachers, and four different Boy Scout troops. He played on three different varsity football teams, and his academic transcripts are almost as complicated as the US Tax Code.
Essentially, my son and his two younger sisters are total BRATS.
No, not that kind of brat. Although our kids have definitely displayed their fair share of unruly behavior, infuriating teen arrogance and near juvenile delinquency; I’m calling my kids “military BRATS,” which has an entirely different connotation.
Back in 1986, former Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger established April as The Month of the Military Child. Military Commands and communities will be holding special events honoring the 1.7 million children of military families. Operation Military Kids, an organization dedicated to military children, asks that everyone “Purple Up!” as a show of support – wear purple in April to recognize the unique challenges military children face, such as deployments, family separations and frequent moves.
So why am I calling my kids BRATS during the month of April? Although it is fairly common knowledge that “military brats” are children of US servicepersons, few know the true origin of this term. According to WilliamsburghMilitaryInsider.com, “B.R.A.T.” may be an old acronym for “British Regiment Attached Traveler,” used to describe dependents accompanying British Army members being stationed abroad.
Over the years, the term expanded and evolved to become a universal descriptor for kids who move with their military parents. Regardless of the technical definitions and historical origins, the term “military B.R.A.T.” means so many different things — both good and bad — to each military family.
The acronym B.R.A.T. might as well stand for all military parents’ fears that their kids will be Bewildered, Reluctant, Afraid and Timid after each move. We put them in new schools, worried that they will be Bullied, Ridiculed, Abused and Taunted. Wracked with guilt, we feel Blameworthy, Remorseful, Apologetic and downright Terrible.
However, we military parents fail to remember that our BRATs are Brave, Resourceful, Amicable and Tolerant. After every move, they make new Buddies, form new Routines, find Acceptance, and feel Triumphant.
But kids will be kids, even the military ones, so they milk our guilt for all it’s worth, and lead us to believe that they are miserable.
They Bellyache, Refute, Accuse and shed Tears. They claim that all the students in their new school are Buffoons, Rednecks, Airheads, and Tramps. They tell us they might be able to cope if they were given Bonuses, Riches, Allowance and Toys.
And every time, we get suckered. As the Bills, Receipts, Arrears and Taxes pile up; the stress causes Balding, Reflux, Anxiety, and Tension headaches. Before you know it, we’re stocking up on Botox, Rogaine, Antacids and Tequila.
But regardless of the challenges of our military life, our children don’t succeed despite their military upbringing, they succeed because of it. And when they grow up and lead their own lives, they bring with them Beautiful Recollections of American Traditions.
As we celebrate the sacrifices and triumphs of military children this month, I’m beaming with pride when I say that our kids are most certainly, undeniably, complete and total BRATs.