They say it takes a village to raise a child. This is even more true in a military community. In the last eleven years since I became a military spouse and mother my friends literally became the village who have helped shape my children into who they are. Having a community around you is important because your family can't always be around. The farthest I have lived from my family has been almost 2300 miles and the closest I have lived is 800 miles. I remember crying the whole day I moved from Montana to my husband's duty station in North Carolina when we first married. I had never lived farther than a few hours away from my mom and family. When I first became a mother I was fortunate to live back in my hometown for the first year of my first child's life. My husband was deployed overseas and I chose to move back home to be around family for the duration of the deployment. My child was born into a room full of so many family members and friends that the doctor and nurses could barely squeeze in. My little family was extremely loved and blessed. My child got to experience what I was able to experience growing up. He saw his grandparents almost every waking moment. Family friends doted on him. We had such a busy social life with get togethers, celebrations, and adventures with the ones we loved. When the deployment was over my son and I returned back to my husband's duty station. We moved into a small four plex on post. I desperately yearned to make friends. I would watch all the moms on the street push their babies in strollers. They would laugh and chat as they strolled by. Every day I would sit in my house and wish I had friends. I was very lonely there. I didn't know how I would make friends. I stayed home with my baby. I didn't go anywhere but the grocery store. While it was lonely we only lived there a few months when orders came to move to a new duty station in Washington state. In our new home I was determined to make friends. It isn't always easy to meet people when you are constantly moving and having to make where ever you are “home”. One way I found was joining meet up groups online, military family readiness groups, and just really putting myself out there. Being active. Saying hello. I joined a church and a women's bible study. I made it a point to get out more. I made conversation with others while out. I went to meet up groups for stay at home mothers. My first friend I met in there in Washington was at the hotel we were staying at while we were house hunting. We met on the playground while pushing our babies on the swings. In addition to her we met many wonderful people who became our surrogate family. Over time these friends became our adopted family. They were there right along side our parents for deployment homecomings and birthdays. They also were there when we needed a helping hand, a reassuring word, hugs, and trips to the emergency room. These “aunts, uncles, and cousins” still remain in our lives. The bonds we created could not be severed by the miles when one of us had to move. The community we created shaped all of our lives. My second son was born in the same hospital his brother was born at. By the time he was born we were about to move across country because you guessed it, orders came again. We settled into a new home when he was three weeks old. I don't always meet my friends immediately. I found the ones worthy of my heart and friendship sometimes took time to enter my life. When I found my tribe....my village I just knew. A few months after we settled in we met those people. We formed friendships and our boys met new aunts, uncles, and cousins. Their family traditions would join ours to create new traditions and memories. My children loved their non traditional family we created with our friends. We have so many photographs of our us having family gatherings with our friends. We have had some amazing “Friends giving” meals. We had family dinners, outings, and celebrating milestones and birthdays together. By the time we felt so close like a family our orders came to move once again. I don't dislike moving usually. I love the adventure and change. I love meeting new people and exploring new places. Though each time it is harder and harder to go. The people who become our family get harder to leave. In this life we rarely say “goodbye” but rather “see you later”. We know deep down it's a small world and even smaller military world. We pray we can see one another again soon. By the time my daughter was born I had been in Texas for almost three years. Prior to her birth and heading into another deployment that was looming close after her due date I was getting scared. I had my two sons with my mom, in-laws, and family right there. I had never had a baby away from them. That combined with the scheduled deployment my heart was heavy. I had a dream one night that I was in a room. In that room there was a book opened. I looked at the page and all I could see was this sentence: This is the family I gave to you. I took it as a sign that my family I created in Texas would be there with me. I would not be alone. I had met so many people who were amazing. I had never felt so settled and at home than I did there. My husband deployed twice while we were there and during those times is when my friends and I really leaned on each other and grew closer. Then just like that the orders came again. I could not imagine leaving my family, my community, my village once again. This is the move out of all the other moves that I struggled with the most. I think it is harder on the heart learning to leave them then how it felt waiting to meet them. I literally could feel my heart break into pieces the moment as I watched my adopted hometown disappear in my rear view mirror. I was leaving my adopted family behind. I still tell everyone that I miss all the pieces of my heart I left in Texas. So it is very important that you whether a military family or not to create a family where ever you are. A community of others who in addition to your own extended family to experience life with your children. A village to help inspire them, celebrate them, and teach them. We as humans are not meant to be alone. We are not meant to be isolated to ourselves. We are meant to grow, learn, and experience life together. I have been so blessed to have the family God gave me. My family is just a little spread out now.
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