Fur, feathers and Fins…

There comes a time in a family where the inevitable question of “Mom, Dad, can we have a pet?” comes up, and a military family is no different. When’s a good time and what you should choose differs in each family, but it should be brought up as a family discussion, letting the kids present the reasons why it’s a good idea and with them telling you what their duties will be when the new member arrives, but, of course, with the parents making the final decision. If you already have a pet, then adding to the family is going to be a consideration as well. Sometimes one is good, but two might be too much.

On Saturday, we strolled through a pet store just to kill some time and, of course, my grandkids wanted a pet. They’ve wanted a pet for some time but they just got back from an overseas station and my daughter just doesn’t want to deal with a dog or cat right now, and the military housing does not allow them anyway. So what to do? Well, we considered guinea pigs, snakes, mice, turtles, birds and fish. We settled on fish but they had to go home and ask their father first, and my grandson was very worried that his dad would say no.

On Sunday I got a text from my daughter asking me if I wanted to go and help pick out a fish for each kid, there’s two of them…lol…and so we did.  The whole family went, even their auntie!  We had a great time and the kids got to explore all the other animals again as well.  Picking the final fish was the easy part!  It was all the stuff that goes with them that was hard!   So they are now the proud owners of two Betta fish and they are so happy! I told them if they took care of the fish, then I would get them a turtle, and work our way up to the hard stuff!

They put together the tanks and have found the perfect place to put them and they are so happy! So keep your options open and remember that the pet you get is part of the family and all considerations have to be given when adding to the unit. How old the kids are and their level of responsibility is part of it, but also where will you be in a year, two or five? What are your plans? Especially with dogs and cats. Will you be able to ship your pet if your duty station changes? Are you going to be buying a home in the future or are you going to rent or make use of military housing? Military housing is just like renting, they all have their own amenities and regulations, so pick carefully and with thought but pets are always a good way to help kids learn responsibility and commitment, and add just a little bit fun for all!

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Imagine you’re 19 years old from Tulsa, Oklahoma and you’ve just arrived in San Diego because you’re newly wedded Navy husband got orders just after you got married that it was going to be your new duty station. He is assigned to a destroyer that will be going out on maneuvers for the next 12 months.

Imagine that you’ve only been married 6 months and you just found out you’re going to have a baby.

Imagine you’re all alone except for him and the new baby, in a new city, a new life and no family to turn to when you need help, or just someone to talk to when you get lonely.

Imagine what it’s like to have to handle the red tape and bureaucracy that goes along with any governmental entity, and the military is known for massive red tape.

Imagine that you really haven’t lived enough to know what’s in store but you are resolved to love your husband and your baby and be proud of both of them. Imagine…this is just one of thousands of imagines that happen every day with our military families. Yet they all continue to serve and protect us every day. They have all the problems and situations that every day Americans have but it is complicated by the needs of a modern day military. Imagine you’re this young wife and mother…and thank her as well for her role in this most important part of American life.

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Family Support

Anytime any new family is formed, it’s always important for the newbies to have support from the rest of their family. With a military family, it’s especially crucial because of the unexpected change in direction that sometimes happens to a military family. Taking the time in advance to speak with members of your intimate circle will help because when the time comes for that change, it may happen too fast to do you any good.

One day the two of you are going along fine and you’re thinking things couldn’t get any better and then a sudden life change happens and all bets are off. “Honey, I’m pregnant!” happens at the same time he’s got to go out on maneuvers!  Or just as she has a new shift in her duty station, his job says he needs to make a quick trip away for a few days.  Every family faces these challenges, but a military faces additional hurdles because unlike a civilian job where you may be able to put off or change a scheduled event, in the military, there are no such outs.  And in many cases, a military family is not stationed near close friends or families.

But if you’re lucky and/or plan ahead, you can have this type of discussion before the need arises and make contingency plans so that you might have a fighting chance at success.  If you are in a city where you have family/friends, ask them if they are willing to help out if a situation like this occurs. It is also important for families to reach out to other military families at a new duty station.

Military bases in the U.S. and around the world have resources and facilities that can at least guide you or help you locate other families so that when a change in plans happen, you can get assistance if needed.  Team up with a group of other families and join a support system, and if none exists, take the initiative, and start one yourself.  Even if you are the brand new kid on the block, your efforts will be appreciated.

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