If you or your spouse are in the military and you have kids, you know this term and probably loathe it. Your kid is the light of your life, how dare anyone call your child a brat?!
Because they probably are.
What the world sees, with mine, is a little girl who asks inappropriate questions and deals with things in the worst possible way. Who shrugs off anything you say like you don’t matter to her. She may even straight up tell you that. She often lashes out and says hurtful things. She will always try to be the best. And that often means trying to tear you down.
When a friend of ours suffered a miscarriage, my oldest became obsessed with the whole thing. She wanted to know why the baby died. She wanted to know how the baby died. She wanted to talk about why Jesus didn’t bring it back to life. She wanted to compare the fact that I was still pregnant with a healthy baby to the fact that my friend was not anymore. And she said all this to my friend. I’ve never been more mortified. And this really is just one example of her disregarding other’s feelings.
When she gets praise for virtually anything, her first question is “Was it better than Sissy?” Or “Who’s was the best?” She’s a one upper like nobody’s business. She doesn’t care when people leave after a visit. She knows she can get attention if she pouts after them sometimes, and she does love them, but she doesn’t really seem like she cares at all. She says bye and moves on like they’re not important to her at all. If she hurts someone by accident and doesn’t get in trouble, it’s pretty obvious she doesn’t feel remorse. She can’t maintain a friendship for long (yet) in school without having a fight and “not being their friend anymore.”
So yeah; that constitutes a brat to me. And the world sees these same things in other military children. Lord knows before I had kids of my own I saw it.
But what you don’t know is how much that little girl has gone through; the why she doesn’t form attachments the same as most kids. As a 5 year old, my daughter has lived in 5 different homes. She had to say goodbye to her first best friend at 2. And then her second at 4. She’s gotten close with friends of our family at each base; so close they are family to us all. And then we say goodbye to them. Her Godfather she hasn’t seen since she was 1; he lives in Japan. Her biological family is so far away she doesn’t really know most of them; just recognizes them. And every time we visit family, she still has to act like she is one of them, even though they all know each other so much better than they know her. She has to be the outsider coming into an established environment. Every time she visits her family. Wrap your head around that. Her family doesn’t know her. They don’t know what she likes or wants. She meets new family all the time, because there’s always a member or two that can’t come to the big gatherings. There are very few consistent family members in her life. She’s had to suffer growing up far earlier than any child should because Mommy needs her to be responsible when Daddy’s deployed. And I count on her for her help far more than I should. And no matter how hard I try not to lean on her, sometimes I need the support and she’s the closest I can get.
What you don’t see is the evolution of her not caring. You don’t hold her as she cries herself to sleep missing her friends, her family and her daddy. You don’t wrack your brain trying to explain why her family unintentionally and unknowingly excludes her. Or why other children get away with more than she does. (Because Mommy needs you to make things easier on her.) Or why they get away with less than she does. (Because mommy’s tired of saying no.) You don’t see her little face when she is confused by why mommy’s insane when daddy’s gone. And how she probably feels that when Daddy’s gone, and Mommy’s insane; she’s all alone.
Military life teaches children to adapt and be flexible in a way few other lifestyle can. But it happening to children, when they crave stability, is not without negative consequence, as well.
So yeah. I may have brats. To you. But they’re doing the best they can. And what you’re seeing is their struggle. You’re not seeing that this brat evolution will turn them into strong independent people. And eventually they will handle change better than other kids. And they’ll appreciate when they do have friends and family that are there all the time. They’ll be prepared for the world.