This entire week, I have been down in Austin, Texas taking care of a serious issue with a company that was managing my property in Texas.
Basically they stole a couple thousand dollars from not just me but over 100 other veteran and military families.
I am fortunate to have great friends in Austin who have let me stay with them while I take care of this problem. But take it from me, for a single man whose biggest responsibility is a Great Dane, this past week has been a crash course learning experience for me in parenting.
It had to be. They have four kids under four.
Today it dawned on me that the military had prepared me very well for kids. Here’s why:
1) Just like you can’t choose who is in your unit, you can’t choose who is in your family.
So here’s reality, I’m not related by blood to these kids. I first met their father in Germany and we later went to war together. However, I care for them as much as I would my own flesh and blood.
2) Oaths matter
Just like raising your right hand to swear to support and defend the constitution, when you swear to be a Godfather, you are swearing that regardless of what comes and what you are called upon to do, that you will faithfully discharge your duty. Sure playing with kids is a whole lot more fun than going to Iraq, but that first diaper change is definitely a learning experience… especially if you are changing the diaper of a toddler.
Seriously, how do you get these damn things to stay securely fastened to the kid without being too tight!
But this oath also means that you are there to teach them, you are there to help train them, and God forbid, if something terrible was to happen to their parents that you would make sure that your godchild didn’t want for anything.
3) Complaining and crying are just a part of life
If soldiers aren’t complaining, something is seriously wrong. As a NCO you learn to distinguish between general gripes that will always occur and serious concerns. Being a father is no different. Believe me, with four kids under four, somebody or a pair of kids are going to cry sometime throughout the day. You just need to distinguish between the I’m grumpy tantrums and the I need to go to the emergency room.
4) Have plenty of caffeine ready
I drank coffee, red bull, dipped, and did snuff all the time when we were constantly running combat patrols. At one point in time, there were two squads with only one medic, me, assigned to them. There were plenty of times that our patrol would stop right at the inside of our base, and I would jump out of the incoming patrol’s HUMVEE and jump into the outgoing patrol’s HUMVEE. Being tired was a way of life.
You will tire out before a pair of toddlers tire out. All you can do is manage how tired you are.
I’m writing this at 9pm and sipping on my 5th cup of coffee today.
5) Always make sure to leave with a full combat load
With four kids under four you need to do an equipment check before rolling out the door.
- Bottles? Check
- Diapers? Check
- Wipes? Check
- Little toys? Check
- Snacks? Check
Whiskey for the men? …. I wish…. sometimes…..
6) The NCO Creed kind of applies to children
“My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind—accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my Soldiers.” If you replace Soldiers with children, I think that we can all agree that your mission with a child is to raise a well adjusted, honest, and productive member of society. However a child’s well being directly impacts their ability to be all of those things. Balancing both of these is difficult. It often feels like you’re walking a tight rope.
7) Anticipation isn’t just for your enemies
The one thing that I have realized this week, is that you need to be one step ahead of your kids at all times. The minute you take your eye off of them is the minute that a plate breaks.
8) Enjoy the good times
I don’t get to see these kids often. Every time I come down, they’re a little bit older, they’re talking more, and I’m amazed at what they have learned in what seems to me like an instant. Pretty soon, I know that they aren’t going to want to play with me anymore, and that they’ll be embarrassed to be seen with me around their friends.