In honor of Veterans Day I am writing a little piece about my service.
I have been in the Army for 14 years. I have been a mother for 6 and 3/4 years. That means that I have been taking care of Soldiers for more than twice as long as I have been taking care of kids. So sometimes my default mode is to go “commandomom.” This has its pro’s and cons.
I started my career as a 71D Paralegal. I commissioned as a 2LT in the Quartermaster Corps and spent several years as a Platoon Leader and later Company Commander. After law school I re-branched and now serve in the JAG Corp as a Command Judge Advocate.
One nice thing about being a commandomom is my driving skills. I spent significant time driving 8-wheel HEMTT Tankers. I am also licensed to drive Deuce and a half trucks with a trailer. So transitioning from my two door coup to my mom sized SUV was an easy transition. Do I miss my five speed? Sure. But I can pack five full size car seats in my ride.
Over the years my kids have picked up Close Range Engagement Hand and Eye signals, so even in the library or at church I can silently gesture them to stop wrestling with each other and direct them to an alternative activity.
Another nice thing is that I have taught my kids to sleep anywhere. For me it started in Basic when we used bus rides to training sites to catch up on a few minutes sleep. One particular semester of law school I was burning the candle at both ends, preparing for a mobilization at Ft. Indiantown Gap, PA and taking classes at the University of Baltimore in the evening. I had a 45 minute break between classes. I would lay my head on my desk the minute the first professor stopped talking, and sleep until the next began. I’ve taught my kids these same skills. It is never too hot, cold, dark, bright, quiet, or loud to catch a nap.
The most important positive skill I hope my kids are picking up is team work. In the Army you are only as successful as your team. Which means even if my oldest child is ready with his coat and shoes on, the family is not ready until Little Sophie has her coat and shoes on. To get out the door we need to help each other.
When my oldest son was born, I realized I don’t know any lullabies. I started signing cadence to him as an infant, and he still asks for them at night. I’ve taught them to march as well. It gives them focus when we have to cross big parking lots. We sing “up the ladder and down the slide/we’re gonna go on a real fun ride/sound off/one two/sound off/three four.”
One of the draw backs of being commandomom, is sometime I forget myself around my little Soldiers. I can lead troops in battle, so yes, I can direct three little children to get a task done quickly and efficiently, “in a military fashion.” I hear myself barking: “lets go lets go hustle hustle hustle move out!” Kids are slow. That is a good thing. They are constantly exploring. As a commandomom I need to throw my Operational Timeline out the window and let them take the lead more often. When I do, I often discover an amazing objective more valuable than I had planned.
Another skill I need to reign in is acting as a pack mule. I’ve rucked countless miles with 50+ pounds of weight between ruck and armor, so it is habit for me to start putting everyone’s bags, toys, jackets, and eventually their persons in my arms. I have literally carried all three of my kids and all their stuff. My kids need to pull their own weight…and pack less stuff. I’ve been enabling them.
The cool thing is that the skill conversion has gone both ways. I have learned a lot about each from the other. Being around children has taught me valuable leadership skills. Children are honest and transparent. No need for gamesmanship They tell you what they need so long as you are listening. You need to be involved, lead by example, take care with their pride, and motivate with earned praise. Enforce rules but let them run wild when they can. I’ve taken all this and applied it to my style of military leadership and I have my children to thank for teaching these skills to me.