Wednesday, April 15, 2015

This is My #MilKid

Yesterday was Howie's birthday. His FIFTH birthday. I can't tell you how mind-blowing that is to me. Where did the time go?

This year Howie's birthday was a really low-key affair. Jake is gone (again, though thankfully, not to a war zone this year), and so we had a party for Howie a couple of weeks ago before he had to leave at the Antique Firehouse, where Howie and his friends (and the dads) got to dress up like fire fighters and go for a ride in a vintage fire truck!

So for his actual birthday, I just took rainbow cupcakes to Howie's school as a treat for him and his classmates. Being the birthday boy, he got two cupcakes: chocolate, with the brightest blue frosting I've ever seen.

I think it's pretty safe to say he enjoyed them. And I enjoyed the fact that HEB's VERY brightly colored frosting washes out of clothing easily with warm water.

Early in the day though, before school or any discussion of sweet treats, Howie woke up and came running down the stairs with an exuberant "It's my birthday!!" 

Then a brief pause, followed by "It is my birthday, right Mommy?" The poor kiddo still does not understand why one might celebrate a birthday on any day other than the actual birthday, so having his party early has thrown him for a loop.

After a small amount of convincing, we turned our attention to getting ready for school. Before we left the house, Howie decided we should document the moment ("Take my picture Mommy, I'm showing you five!"). After I snapped his picture, I said "Let's make a video, baby." I wanted to make for myself a reminder of the way my sweet boy's mind is working at five years old, because he won't stay there for very long.

I asked Howie to tell me about his favorite things, thinking he would talk about his Ninja Turtles or his Legos or his airplanes. His answers, though, really floored me.

Floored. I ask Howie about his favorite things, and he doesn't talk about things at all. No, what came to his mind was Daddy. Flying airplanes with Daddy. Playing Legos when we visited Daddy at Ft. Riley. Wanting Daddy to be home. Wanting Daddy to be safe. As I watched the video back with Howie, I was struck with pride that my little person understands what's really important (time with loved ones). But I was also just a little heartbroken that someone so small has already learned absence, and how to worry about someone else. 

That is what it is to be a military kid. It means understanding, way too soon, that moments with our loved ones are precious and life is far too short. It means shouldering emotional burdens that are difficult for adults to bear, yet somehow maintaining the spark of childhood. And although I'm completely in awe of this sweet boy of mine, I know that he's not unique in this respect. We've been at war for over thirteen years. There are milkids who have spent their entire childhoods walking this path.

It really makes only one month of recognition seem wholly inadequate. So to my little hero, and to all of the other little heroes out there, facing more of war than most grown-ups in this country, all I can say is that you are awesome. Truly, unequivocally awesome.

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