By Anita Doberman: Freedom Newspapers Columnist
Experts say moving is one of the most stressful events in someone’s life. If that’s true, it’s a miracle my husband and I made it as long as we have. Like many military families, we have moved around; six times in five years to be accurate.
If you have ever experienced the joys of relocating, you don’t need an expert to tell you what you experienced. And if you’re a military family, it’s just another perk of the job.
Learning a few tips about movers and the immense power they wield will make your life a lot easier. Be nice but vigilant. Pick your battles — “no, don’t pack up my garbage but, yes, you can put the kids’ clothes all together.” Order pizza for lunch — it will make it a lot easier to convince them to wrap up the liquor bottles or cleaning products they swear they’re not supposed to pack.
My children are young, and up to this point the stress of moving had been exclusively on my husband and me. OK, doubly on my husband because he has to deal with me. On one move to Alabama, he asked why there were footprints on the wall of our new home. “Because I was kicking it,” I replied, as if the answer was obvious. I was not keen on the house we had been assigned: When I opened the closet door it fell on me. Can you blame me?
A couple of days ago my oldest daughter, Luisa, who is 5, asked, “Why do we have to move homes so many times, Mommy? It’s not fair.”
A whole new world was opening up for me; my children would soon be actually understanding the stresses of moving. I wanted to answer Luisa’s question by plunging into a discourse about the unfairness of life and our need to have positive attitudes in the face of uncertainty. But I spared her the long talk and said, “We move a lot because Daddy is in the military and we have to go where his job tells us. Daddy has a very important job, to defend the country, so we have to make some sacrifices. But, we get to see lots of different places and meet new people and friends.”
“But, but, but,” — she says “but” many times when she is upset — “then we have to leave them.”
“Everything has a beginning and an end,” I replied. “Home is where there is love and security and you will always have that, no matter where we live.”
Did I pass the test? Was my answer satisfactory to her, or was it too preachy? Did I even believe it?
I have an active imagination and after Luisa’s question, I worried that I was depriving my children of continuity, a hometown, a sense of place. I could already see the title of some scholarly article: “Military children suffer from hometown-deprivation-syndrome (HDS): the Doberman family, a cohort study.”
As soon as I had this thought — at midnight — I woke up my husband and asked him if he would ever let our children be in a cohort study.
“What? Whichever answer will get me back to sleep.”
Perhaps he was right. Worrying about this issue at midnight was useless, and I could do nothing about it anyway.
The next day, I was walking on base with our children when they started playing the national anthem. Luisa stopped, and without looking at me put her hand on her heart. I was touched and surprised, and I asked her how she knew to do that. “Of course I know, Mommy, this is what we do on base, and I’ve done it since I was a little baby.” She likes to overemphasize the fact that she is a big girl now.
Luisa’s gesture made me realize that even though my children don’t have a hometown, they still have a sense of security and familiarity. For me, familiarity came from growing up in the same home, a literal stone’s throw from uncles, aunts and cousins — picture a big, loud Italian family — and knowing everyone else in our neighborhood. “Home” as an idea is something different for everyone.
For my children, the national anthem, military men and women in uniform (who my 2-year-old Eva often tries to hug), flight lines with noisy planes and helicopters carry a sense of familiarity and security.
No need to worry about cohort studies. I have to keep this column around, and make sure I have a good answer when the next child asks me why we have to move so often.
I better make several copies; I have four more children to go.
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. The family expects to be moving to Cannon Air Force Base in the next year. Contact her at: