I recently celebrated my birthday, and as a newly 24-year-old adult I thought back on all the wonderful birthdays my parents threw me as a kid.
They understood that birthdays as a military child were a touchy subject: We were usually on the go or had just moved somewhere and knew no one. One summer, my mother passed out flyers to the neighborhood kids to find attendees for my sister’s party.
Birthdays can be complicated for the average person. Getting older, growing up or confronting change is hard for people. As a child of the military, birthdays can just be another day. We are accustomed to change and must accept it.
We usually don’t get a say in the matter of where we are for our birthdays. That’s why when the day is made a little special, it means that much more. My mother was the best at doing the little things: Confetti in my lunchbox, notes slipped into my bag or, later on, surprise packages in the mail.
Being a military kid can sometimes make you feel like the luggage your parents drag along from place to place. And I know what some of you military parents are thinking: “My kid doesn’t want me to do anything, they are moody/don’t care/are a teen.” I’m telling you now, you are wrong.
All military kids want something special for their birthday. They are simply too embarrassed to admit that they want to be treated like kids from time to time. They want to be cool and act mature.
If you are in transit, even something as small as a cupcake or a card can mean a world of difference. They will remember it and appreciate throughout their day, whether that be navigating a new school or trying to make friends with the neighborhood kids.
Traditions are a terrific way to make birthday celebrations easy. It could be something as simple as going to a movie — any activity that can move along with your family.
For me, it’s always been Asian food on my birthday. Sometimes it was homemade, sometimes we went to a hibachi in a strip mall, sometimes it was a restaurant with a revolving track of sushi. Some of those birthdays were overseas, some of them in Huntsville, Alabama. The location wasn’t important, but my family doing something just for me was.
A military lifestyle sometimes means that you are placed on the back burner. As you get older, it’s easier to adjust to that. But as a child, it’s hard not to want an entire day to be just about you. Having your family unit as support is always helpful to make these seemingly fun days be a good time.
Alaina Boukedes spent 24 years as a military brat; her father’s now a retired Army colonel. She graduated from the Medill School of Journalism in 2017 and is a production assistant and freelance journalist in Chicago. Follow her online at www.alainaboukedes.com or on Twitter (@alainasboukedes). Have a PCS Story? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “PCS Story” in the subject line.