Friends are incredibly important in any life but the friendships you make whilst living this crazy military life will make the moves, the deployments and the upheaval so much easier to deal with. Not only for us adults but for children too.
I feel truly blessed to have met some of my closest friends, those who’s friendship and opinion I value the most, because of our shared connection to the military. These guys, and I have to say guys, because yes there are guys in there too, have lived or are living the same life as me. Facing the same challenges, similar ups and the downs and the shared knowledge of how great but also how tricky it can be at times is invaluable.
One of those friend’s husband was drafted to a new unit just over a year ago now. A great and life-changing thing for them. Nearer to family and to support that they’d never had, support when you’re raising children that is often unobtainable because you’re far away from family. A devastating blow for us, two besties caught in the middle along with our eldest children. Two quiet and sensitive boys, best friends, there for each other without question and with a shared love of chicken nuggets and Minecraft.
I can still remember the tears and sadness they both felt when it came to moving day. It’s so hard when you’re ten to understand why things need to change because of the job your dad does and why your heart feels so broken at the thought of leaving your pals behind.
For us grown-ups it was sad, but we knew it would be OK. We knew we’d stay in touch and despite the miles would make every effort to be there for each other. These days it’s easy, we have mobile phones and can call, text, WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime, the list of ways we can stay in touch is huge. Not to mention Facebook, Instagram and all the other social channels. The only difference for us is we don’t get to spend time together in person. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still sad (a little bit odd not to be living around the corner from each other) and it’s not easy but it’s OK.
For our boys it was much harder. They didn’t choose this life. Instead, they get thrown into it, learning as they grow to adapt and deal with frequent change.
With no choice, they turned to technology to bridge the gap the military life had put between them.
They each had iPads so could text and Facetime, but they also had to rely on their mums to co-ordinate for them around family life. They could game on their devices too, it just wasn’t the same as being in the same room. The first few weeks there was lots of ‘I miss my friend’ or ‘Do you think my friend will call’? Thankfully, the summer holidays were close by, so we arranged to meet halfway between our houses and off my son went to stay with his bestie for a week of sleepovers, treats and hanging out – he didn’t want to come home! This made such a difference as they realised that the miles really didn’t matter, they could still see each other.
Then came a new start at secondary school for both of them. A step into the unknown and one which has been far from easy. I’m still not sure what the Government thinks happens to children over the summer holidays that means they are ready for the responsibility which is heaped on them in Year 7. Needless to say, it’s been challenging and a steep learning curve!
With a start to secondary school both boys started using mobile phones which made keeping in touch for them much easier and they didn’t need to have their mums acting as a go between. They message each other and call regularly, and it warms my heart to hear the excitement in their voices when they chat. They both have game consoles so can game with each other in the same game - as close as they’re going to get to playing in the same room whilst living miles apart. They still miss hanging out, riding their bikes and climbing trees together, but with access to technology these things make the distance seem less.
They often say that the truest test of friendship is maintaining it over long-distance, but I think our boys have nothing to worry about. Living around the corner or hundreds of miles apart, friendships built in an environment where the common thread of a military connection weaves through it are built to stand the test of time. Our boys are testament to this fact.