Brat

Stumbling around on FB last week I came across a post from an acquaintance saying roughly (I cannot find the post again to save my life, it may have been taken down) that “Military Brat” is not a term of honor, “your kid is a brat because you’re not there to teach them not to be.”

Now, this struck me as odd, and as a misreading of a common term. I was put off, but ignored it.

But then this popped up:

I think it’s irresponsible to make babies and war at the same time. My dad was gone a lot when I was a kid, and my mom was busy, and I grew up feeling alone in the world, with the belief that nobody was there to take care of me. I wondered if my dad had another family in Germany, and I wondered if terrorists were going to kill my mom today, or if the bomb threats were just rumors.

I don’t want that for your kids. If you are unwilling to wait to the end of your contract to start a family, that’s your choice. But if you pretend your kids aren’t losing out by not having you around, you’re delusional.

I’m sorry, what?

I am not a child of the military, though several family members have served. I have many friends in various branches, some on contracts, some career. Some with families, some without. And that post struck me as insulting. (Judging from the response she got to it, I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.)

I mean, look, I get that because your dad was a military contractor he was gone a lot. And I can sympathise with being a little girl with a wildly active (and morbid) imagination. But guess what? For the first 7 years of my life I barely saw EITHER of my parents, because of their work schedules. I didn’t spend my entire childhood in the same house. And I’m fine. I wasn’t traumatized because my mother wasn’t there to help me with my homework, nor did I feel like I was missing out because my dad wasn’t around to play catch with me.

I guess what’s bothering me is the presumption that because she had a bad experience with being a military child, it’s ok for her to condemn military families as “irresponsible” or (as she later said in the comments) “selfish”. Because seriously, who the hell are you to tell someone when it’s ok for them to have children?

It’s a step off the whole “you can’t have kids until x” conversation that pisses everyone off so much. And I won’t stand for it. You can have opinions, but you sure as hell can’t go guilting someone for doing something you don’t like. ESPECIALLY when it comes to having/not having children.

And taking it a step further, it feels like a condemnation of single parent families. Which REALLY gets my blood boiling. You can’t presume to know the reasons/motives/situations that brought about any particular family unit. You can’t honestly believe that your experience is the experience of everyone in a similar situation.

And you certainly need to stop portraying your opinions as fact. That type of arrogance makes me lose whatever respect I had left.

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2 Comments to “Brat”

  1. AY YI YI.

    I have to admit when I saw your tweet about this post I tensed up a bit. I grew up with a dad in the Air Force and the whole experience can be a sore spot for people — as it clearly was for this particular Facebooker.

    The thing that’s hard to explain is that the military isn’t necessarily about making war, or going off to war. My dad joined as a career move, if you can imagine. He tried the two options available to him — farming and factory work — and he decided he wanted a better opportunity. He saw the military as a place where he could get good technical training, and steady pay. Granted, this was 1980, and the country wasn’t actively at war. But I just simply want to make a point that folks — actually, the bulk of active duty military — don’t join because they want to fight enemies. They don’t necessarily join because they have stars and stripes all spangled up in their eyeballs. It just seems like a better life than the one they’re currently living.

    But what’s better living, really? Is it a very bad thing to have a parent that travels frequently? My dad never had to go off to war, but he did spend long stretches of time traveling for training — and once, he got sent to Iceland for an entire year (my mom and I could have gone, but they thought it was better they didn’t pull me out of school again). Was that hard on my mom and I? Totally. But having a happy father who was there when he COULD be — that’s what counted. I still remember the times that he spent with me when he was home. And while the stresses of moving and my mom dealing with working full-time and being a single-parent part-time took their toll, it also unified us as a family. It was a thing we went through together.

    My dad thought he was doing the right thing by choosing the military as his career.

    You have a serious point with the condemnation of single parent families, or working families for that matter. If my dad had stayed home and worked in the factory, he would have ultimately traveled less, but what really would have been different? Both of my parents worked full-time. Sometimes they held part-time jobs on top of their full-time ones. I got used to getting up for school by myself and coming home to an empty apartment. Like you, I wasn’t traumatized by this. It was just a matter of fact. My parents had to work, whether it be in military or civilian jobs. To say someone is wrong to have kids while in this situation is accusing the entire lower and lower-middle classes of acting irresponsibly. And that’s just plain B.S.

    Sorry for the lengthy tirade. Hot-button topic for me, if you can’t tell.

  2. This hurts my heart. It isn’t optimal for families to be split by war, or divorce, or any of the other things, but there are so many elements in play for any of these situations that we can’t judge it. Families come in many shapes and sizes and that’s a good thing, as long as we can open our minds and hearts enough to accept it.

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