Moving. It’s part and parcel to the whole military family way of life.
If you are new to the military, then you might only have a couple of moves under your belt. If you’re like me, a more “seasoned” military spouse and brat, then you probably need a moment to tally all the places you’ve called home.
Hand in hand with constantly finding a “new’ home, comes a lingering feeling of transience.
At what point does that freshly painted on-post duplex or 4-bedroom off-base house start to feel like home?
When I Was a Kid
When I was a kid, my active-duty parents whisked me across oceans to both Europe and Asia. Every trip meant picking out the must-have toy to take with me and saying goodbye to every other toy and possession, sometimes for months at a time.
Nothing made a house feel more like home than getting to unpack all my things and finding just the right spot for each and every toy.
Add in a few Saturday morning cartoons and the occasional batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies and things were golden.
When your household goods finally arrive, make setting up your child’s room a priority. Then, try to get back into a routine as quickly as you can. Bedtime stories, bath time, and yes, even cookies, can help take the fear out of a new place. Young kids are amazingly resilient, but familiar items and routines will help them to adjust.
When I Was a Teen
The older I got, the harder it got to move. While unpacking my things helped me to feel settled, a sense of home never really surfaced until we returned to our normal routine.
Things like school and (I can’t believe I am saying this!) Saturday morning chores made me forget that things were new. I guess nothing says home like homework and a toilet brush.
If you have a teenager in your home (or, God help you, more than one, like me!), the same rules apply about routine. As a parent, try to be patient.
The adjustment might take a little longer for your teenagers, but it will come.
Take advantage of opportunities to create special memories in your new home, even some specifically associated with moving.
Use up some of that seemingly endless supply of packing paper for a paper snowball fight.
Take turns picking a place for dinner so you can explore your new neighborhood.
And make sure you take time to Skype or email friends from your last duty station. A familiar voice can help make the transition a little easier.
When I Was an Adult
For a brief time, in my late teens and early twenties I ventured out into the world on my own. I stayed with extended family and a few friends as I worked my way through college, but it never really felt like home. Even moving into my own apartment felt empty and lonely.
Shortly thereafter I joined the Army. My barracks room became my inspection-ready sanctuary and my barracks-mates my family. But we all knew those digs were only temporary and none of us ever really felt like we were home.
It wasn’t until I married my husband and we started our own family that I felt like I had a home again. Hanging curtains, painting walls and making sure that every box was unpacked or hidden away in storage was and is always the first step to making it feel like home again for us.
Enjoy the process of discovery that comes from unpacking all of those things you love. Then, once you’ve emptied all of those boxes, make a point to entertain a few guests if you can.
Nothing makes a house feel more like a home than putting out a welcome mat and extending a little hospitality.
Dozens of Moves Later
Just over a year ago, we purchased what will be our last home as an active-duty Army family. Bits and pieces of the life we have built are seen in every corner, but it is only recently that this house has started to feel like home to me.
My kids are nearly grown, with one already discussing plans to move out. And so, the idea of home is changing once again.
How can it be home if we are not all together? Will our home become just a living museum of the memories collected as we traveled from place to place?
I suppose only time will tell.