I almost lost a gasket—my son hadn’t turned in a couple of assignments at school. But what made this situation more difficult was my husband’s job. Right now, I did the lion’s share of parenting at this stage, and it’s the cost of having a servant-hearted husband. However, my high standards and inflexibility with my kids almost broke me. Instead of digging my heels further and becoming more rigid, I adopted the adage “Semper Gumby” to my parenting. We owe it to ourselves and our kids to be flexible with our parenting as military families.
Flexibility in Communication
Busy schedules dampened my communication with my kids. My questions were met with one-word answers or grunts. This wasn’t entirely my kids’ fault—I didn’t add much to our conversation. Our communication was lacking.
We need a change in communication. Instead beginning with open-ended questioning, I decided to be direct with my inquiries. Flexibility, in this case, meant modifying how we talked to one another. We implemented the “high, low, buffalo” strategy when we discussed our days. First, we talked about our highlights, proceeded to our day’s lows, and finally, shared something completely random. But we didn’t stick to this format all the time—it needed to stay loose for whenever my kids wanted to talk about something. My willingness to adjust encouraged our conversation and helped our child-parent connection.
Flexibility in Fun
My idea of fun isn’t the same as my kids’ version. They preferred to roll on the ground and wrestle, while I loved looking through old books and learning new facts. But if I was willing to be flexible, I needed to get on their level. Before I could do any of this, however, I needed to understand why fun was so crucial to connecting with my kids, who often don’t get to see their dad.
If we don’t let loose every so often, then we lose sight of the joy we have as growing and thriving families. Every moment deserves a celebration—especially when dealing with challenging aspects of the military lifestyle, including extended training schedules and deployments. We need fun to be healthy families. If it means doing something spontaneous with your kids, absolutely do it. Go to the park after school. Taste test various ice cream shops in your area. Have fun! Don’t be scared to relax every so often to strengthen your relationship with your children.
Flexibility in the Hard Things
You can say it—it is not easy to solo-parent. Once I offered myself grace in many situations, such as blowing up on my kids, eating pizza three days in a row, or forgetting about soccer practice, I could finally breathe. Extend the permission. Embrace flexibility! Accept the reality that solo-parenting is not only exhausting but also a unique situation in which many of us are placed. Willingness to adjust the plan as needed is the key we all need to thrive and grow as military families.