Sunday, October 19, 2014

So, Are We Screwing The Kids Up?

It is the million dollar question. One we joke about at our book clubs and Bunco groups but then quietly mull over in our minds in a more serious way when it's 2 AM. We all know that our kids will inherit some of our imperfections. We all have them, we all do some quirky thing or project some strange habit that our kids will inevitably annoy their future spouse with. But what about the big picture? Like, will my kids just be okay? And even better, what lessons can I take out of our unique life to help build a stronger, smarter, more well-rounded child?

I can't say that I thought much about how the military lifestyle would impact my kids when I was a youthful 21 year old planning our wedding. I was just excited to marry my high school sweetheart and ready for an adventure. Ready, after 5 years long distance, to not spend an hour each night on AOL IM  from my dorm room and instead actually see his eyes on a daily basis. I was naïve, but I was also open to something new and fun and different. I think I considered the differences between my own upbringing and the life I was about to embark on. But you never know something until you are neck deep in it.

The old adage of "you signed up for this so you can't complain" is probably the single most ignorant and obnoxious thing I've heard thrown at military families. Sorry, you just can't tell someone that they should "suck it up" because they "volunteered". I'll go fist to cuffs with anyone who wants to fight me on that one. This life, or any life, whether it be the surgeon on call when he just wants to sleep or the trucker missing Christmas for the third year in a row, is constant learning experience. We are all winging it. You can tell me to "suck it up, buttercup" when I'm getting my eyebrows waxed. NOT when I am moving my 4 year old to her third preschool. This stuff is hard.

The editor of Military Spouse Magazine contacted me a few months ago to write an article on grit. Grit is a term that has become trendy when discussing resilience and factors other than intelligence that predict success. Grit is the thing that keeps one focused, helps them get up when they have fallen for the 10th time, and keeps them persevering in the face of resistance and fatigue. The million dollar question was: what is grit? And can the imperfections and challenges of the military lifestyle actually help mold more resilient kids?

The answer is complicated. The premier researcher on grit, Angela Duckworth, actually said during her TED Talk that she can't tell you how to grow grit. She just knows that folks who exhibit more of that hard nosed and hard charging attitude toward their goals tend to do better, even when controlled for things like IQ score, socioeconomics, and educational background.

While doing my research for the article, I dove into a lot of articles and studies on military children and resilience. Both the positive side (it turns out that you can harness a bit of hardship and turn it into success), and the negative side (resilience fatigue is a thing). If you'd like to read more, please check out my article, which is in print in Military Spouse Magazine's October issue and here on their digital site: http://www.militaryspouse.com/articles/harnessing-grit/

I'm happy to say that I will be writing regularly for Military Spouse Magazine going forward. Next month will feature an I wrote article called "Racing Facebook" which will dive into my most read blog post regarding CACO notifications and social media. If you are a military family, I highly recommend subscribing as MSM dutifully tries to cover many issues that are uniquely related to our crazy unpredictable life. The wonderful editor is a military spouse as are all of the writers.

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Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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