I had a vision for this blog. It was going to always follow a certain pattern that would be predictable to my readers. Well, this one will be different because it will focus on just one tip and that is the importance of making friends “family”. The tip is just that, friends need to be family. Ideally in our lives with small children we should be near family to help with babysitting and advice and emergencies and everything else in between for which you would call on your family. However, the military more often than not takes us away from that crucial support network. I was lucky enough to live close enough to family when one baby was born and even more lucky because my sister was living with us at the time. In those early months of motherhood I don’t know how I would have managed without her. She made it possible to go to work and help me when my husband was away. But, then I was faced with having another baby very, very far away from that support. What was I going to do? How would I survive that? It was frightening and overwhelming at the time. Now, I can say exactly how I survived that and of course the five plus years since. I made friends feel like family and allowed my children to view them the same way.
Often times I meet mothers (and fathers) who dread the distance from family. They rarely have time alone with each other because they feel like they can’t leave their children with anyone. There is a huge trust issue that gets in the way. I find this to be a very sad thing. Our military children live an exciting life but it is also very hard. These children must spend days, weeks and months without one parent and no immediate family near by to help fill that void. We parents shouldn’t deny them the feeling of comfort and support that family offers, and as the parent left home, you absolutely need it! I have two little boys and I just can’t take the place of my husband no matter how hard I try. Only a man can even come close. This past week my husband had to work and it is Carnival, that means lots of fun parades to go to but no husband means I am on my own. Knowing this my now 7 year old asked if Mr. N would be coming to the parade and I said yes he would be there. My son being the way kids can be when they are disappointed dropped his head and made a face and replied, “Why? He always bosses me around.” In the moment I was angry that he would even say this but now looking back I realize how important this friendship is and how it effects the lives of my children. This friend while not being able to fully replace my husband as father still does fatherly things. Things like helping me set boundaries and support me with discipline, which clearly my son is not happy about. But, in 20 years he will look back on this and fully appreciate the role this man played in his young life.
Being able to cultivate a friendship to the point where you trust your children with lives of this friend is so crucial to our survival as military spouses. Without the women that have become my sisters I couldn’t have had a baby in a foreign country, run a half marathon or two, left my sleeping toddler to pick up the other child from school or most importantly have a much needed overnight date with my husband. These are only a few things that were made possible by my friendship I have forged in the last six years of my life. I reflect on these friendships and I feel more grateful for them with each passing day. They make living this life possible and I couldn’t live it without them. We share everything from a surplus of dinner to lonely nights while drinking a cocktail on the front porch and watching our kids play past dark. We have been there for each other when new babies are born and to cheer each other in new endeavors. Without the love and support of this core group of ladies (and their husbands) I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
The importance of having such relationships is so strong so that I couldn’t possibly overstate it. The bond created will live on for a lifetime and it is proven by a moment I had last summer. One of these very special couples vacationed close to us and we were able to drive and meet them for the weekend. My children had not seen them in three years, they were two and four the last time they had seen these friends. But, both boys went with open arms to receive hugs and within minutes you would have thought they had seen our friends everyday for the pass three years. How could children so young be able to have that level of trust or even remember having it one point in time? I guess I may never know but it was there. I hate that our military life keeps us apart and I have watch their children grow up from afar but that is life. Our bond is never broken and it is there forever!
The stories I have for each of these friends is never ending. At this point in time I have only a handful of these friendships and I know moving again will require me to shed many tears and saying goodbye. It is a sad and hard moment to live through just like when I had to leave the support of my family the first time. But, I live with the confidence that there is another special couple out there who will be added to my every growing military family. Each of the women who have become close to me are very different and it seems as though they pull from me different aspects of myself. I love them for this and turn to them for different things be it husband issues (wait, we all have that) or kid issues (we all have, too)…… okay, well, maybe that last part isn’t completely accurate. Anyway, you get the point.
So, let your guard down. Open your home and your heart to another person and trust that they will be there for you during the hardest time and the most joyous. For these friends will be there when you cross the finish line of a marathon or take your children and keep them overnight or even days when you have a new baby, they will bring your ladder chair to parades and make soup when you are sick. These friends will watch your children without thought in the event of an emergency or even go with you. You will laugh, bicker and cry together over the years, just like siblings. Your kids will get on each others nerves and so will the spouse, just like siblings. So, while they will never replace your family but merely fill a very big important void that you just simply can not live without! You may even strike out a few times. I know I have and boy are those memories in and of themselves. But, oddly enough those failed ones help grow others even stronger.
I write this blog and dedicate to those friends who have stood by me and my family and continue to do so and to the friendships just waiting to be made. And, it is my hope that for every military spouse who reads this that you, too, have those ever lasting friendships, where tears and laughter are shared over wine.
P.S. This is also applies to our pets. Somehow, pets of friends also feel like our own and we all share in the sorry of losing them and in the joy of adding a new member.