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The Power of the Pen Pal

Last week, I was working as a substitute teacher at the elementary school my children attend. I logged on to Power School and—gasp! What in the world?!

My son received two 50% grades on two different Language Arts tests.

In my best southern mama voice (keep in mind I’m not actually southern, but we have been stationed south of the Mason-Dixon Line long enough to have picked up a few things), I shouted in my head, “Are you kiddin’ me?!” The next break I got, I walked over to his teachers, and I asked, “What can I do to help him?”

His homeroom teacher looked me square in the eye and said, “Did you know he has a countdown for when y’all leave? He walked in this morning and told me he has two months and 15 days before you fly out.”

Talk about punch in the gut. I thought the air had been sucked right out of my chest as I stared at her for quick moment before replying that I had no idea.

Man, PCS’s can be tough, right? More often than not, there is at least one thing about every duty station that makes us so sad to say goodbye.

My husband and I are incredibly blessed that we have had amazing experiences and duty stations. I have cried like a baby every time we moved, whether it be that I am sad to leave soul sisters, church families, or little communities that welcomed us like one of their own.

My son doesn’t transition well anyway—it’s just part of his personality—and previous moves have had their challenges. But as I was making my OCONUS lists and researching the new duty station and focusing on no-fee passports, visas, orders, and all the other things, I didn’t see the “bittersweet” affecting my kids.

 

I’m good at bittersweet. I can feel a duality of emotions. I can cry at the goodbyes and still be so excited for the adventure to come.

My husband and I have been talking about Italy, and all the cool things we are going to get to do once we get there, for months and months with the kids. We have talked about their new school, places to travel, friends to make, sports to play, food to eat, but in all our prepping the kids, did I ever allow them to have their duality.

I want all these military changes that they are a part of to be positive, and I just didn’t take into account how challenging this move was going to be for my 9-year-old son.

I quickly went into “fix it” mode. How can I let him know that it’s okay to be sad to leave but still excited to go?

Thank goodness for Pinterest and Google. Between the three of our quick surfing brains, I came up with Pen Pal Kits for the friends in my children’s classes.

I went to the school and took pictures of the kids with their friends, and when it gets closer to the time to go, I would like to hand out these as little goodie bags, completely unique to military living, especially since we live in a non-military town. The goodie bags have a picture of my child with their friend, lined paper, envelopes, pencils and our new duty station address.

Creating a Pen Pal kit can help your child when leaving a school and friends they love.

I’m hoping that some of these tremendous friendships our children have created can continue, despite time, mileage, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Allowing our kids to be sad, and understanding that it is a normal human emotion, is just part of the process. I think it’s a little therapeutic to cry and have our heartfelt goodbyes at one duty station before we completely and totally embrace the excitement of the next one.

In my head, I see it as a literal book of my life. The turning of a page. The ending of one chapter and with a fresh start beginning a new one. But all in good time, with a good, healthy process for you and your kids.

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1 Comment

  1. Keith Seckel

    Well written, proud dad.

    Reply

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The Days Are Long as a Milspouse

The Days Are Long as a Milspouse

If you’ve read any of my blog submissions on Mission Milspouse lately, you’ll likely see a pattern where I have been mostly writing about what I’ve learned being a military spouse for the past twenty years but in presented in slightly different ways. In addition to...

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