The Joy (and Pain) of Living On Base as a Military Kid
by Lauren Lomsdale - July 14th, 2022
With every PCS comes the question: where are we going to live? Our family has lived both on and off base, and we have loved both for different reasons. Living off base provided us with a home that we called our own, lots of land, and an opportunity for me to start an in-home preschool business. Our kids had plenty of space to play. We lived away from the congestion and busyness of our area. And we had neighbors that we loved.
The pros and cons of living on base
Living on base has been wonderful too. We don’t have to worry about anything if something breaks. We are close to everything: my husband’s work, schools, grocery stores. Our neighborhood is a safe one, where I can let my kids play in the front yard without hovering like a mama bear or let my 6-year-old ride her bike without me in the sight line. Living on-base, especially with young kids, has been amazing.
Military families make quick friends on base
When we moved onto base at our current duty station, our girls quickly made friends with girls from across the street. And then we became friends with their parents, and now all 5 of our girls basically have two houses that they swap every few hours. They watch our kids, and we watch theirs. We feed each other’s kids. We pick them up from school, and we go on vacation together. Our families are especially close, and I don’t think we would have that same connection living off base.
PCS pain for military kids
We are getting ready to PCS this summer, and this is the first year that both of our sets of children will really fully understand what a move entails outside of just moving our stuff. They will soon experience the pain of leaving friends behind, of saying goodbye and driving away while their hearts are hurting and their throats are tight. They will recognize that these two girls that they see almost every day for hours on end will no longer be across the street. They will hurt, probably for a good while, and it won’t be the last time.
Leaving friends behind when you PCS
Situations like this make me want to live off-base at our next duty station. I don’t want my children having such close friendships that they feel as though their hearts are ripping in two when we inevitably drive away one day. I don’t want them to feel the hurt as they watch their friends’ stuff get packed up and they are left standing in the rearview mirror. As a parent, I want to shield them from this hurt, this sorrow, this type of heartbreak. But, as a parent of a military child, I know I can’t. Being a military kid is rough, and they didn’t choose this life. As much as it hurts my own heart to see their pain, I also don’t want to shield them from it.
Helping military kids say goodbye
No matter where we live, we will have to say goodbye within a few years. We will either be left behind or be the ones leaving. This rings true for both on-base housing and living in town. Living on base in this instance will make the transition a bit harder, emotionally speaking anyways. Being connected to your next door neighbor (or super close) forces you to be close to those around you. You make friends, or at least see the same people around the neighborhood, because people are always outside. Your children make close friends because their school friends live on the next street over instead of a few miles away.
Building character in military kids
All these moves (and goodbyes) will give military kids characteristics that they maybe wouldn’t otherwise have. Characteristics like: • Compassion for those who are experiencing the pain of losing friends, saying goodbye to their mom or dad, or who are having a rough time with change, • Determination to make the most of their situation even when it straight up sucks, • Strength to deal with the pain and the hurt that life will eventually throw at them no matter how big of a bubble I try to create, • Generosity with their time because they will always know that it’s limited, • Resiliency because of their ever-changing situations, • Positivity because they will learn to look on the bright side and be excited about new things even if that’s scary.
Is base housing like Mayberry?
Yes, living on-base and the close friendships that come with it can make PCSing harder. But despite the pain, the things they have gained from those friendships, and even the part where they have to say goodbye, is worth it. They made amazing friends, learned so much, and had fun all while being in the hands of people that we, as parents, trust. And this is exactly the kind of childhood I want my children to have. The one that is like Pleasantville or like an old small town where I know they are safe and I have a village looking out for their well-being. They will grow up with some of the strongest characteristics. As a mom of girls, I want nothing more than for them to be strong.
Living on-base is amazing, except for the goodbyes and leaving friends behind. But it’s totally worth it. Like Garth Brooks says, “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have to miss the dance.”
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