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, my son just started his senior year at his third new high school. By the time he drives off to college next year, he will have grown up in eight different homes, in three different states and two foreign countries. He has said goodbye to five different best friends, five different piano teachers, and four different Boy Scout troops. He will have played on three different varsity football teams, and his academic transcript will be almost as complicated as the US Tax Code.
Essentially, my son and his two 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.
HOW’D THEY GET THIS WAY?
Although it is fairly common knowledge that “military brats” are children of servicepersons, few know the true origin of this term. According to WilliamsburghMilitaryInsider.com, “B.R.A.T.” is an old acronym for “British Regiment Attached Traveler,” used to describe dependents assigned to accompany 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.
And as I watch my kids go off to another new school in another new town, I’m proud to say my kids are most certainly, undeniably, complete and total BRATs.
Tips for helping your BRATs in their new schools:
- It’s Child’s Play — Allow your kids to invite classmates and neighbors over to play often. It’s simply the best way for your child to make new friends, and by hosting playdates at your house, you will be in a better position to guide your kids’ choices.
- Fashion Sense — Allow your kids to express their opinions regarding back to school clothes. Only they know which pair of jeans or which shirt will give them the boost in confidence they might need to get through those “new kid” jitters.
- Take Pride — Remind your kids that, by serving their country, military families live uniquely adventurous lives. Quell their fears about fitting in by giving them a sense of pride in being extraordinary.