Parenting Guru: A thank you letter from a military wife to her civilian family

To our family,

I didn't know. I didn't know, when my husband and I were stationed far away, in cities like San Diego, and states like Kansas, what we were missing. I thought it was perfectly fine to miss little events like birthday parties, minor holiday celebrations and impromptu weekend brunches. We got used to spending our weekends at the gym, lounging around, and taking little trips around our city. We saw friends all the time, and we relied on them for entertainment or in times of need. Most of our friends were military families too, so they were in the same situation as we were. Friends were our family.

But our family moved on without us. We went home occasionally, but with airline tickets being as expensive as they are, it just wasn't always possible. We missed so much. At the time, I just thought it wasn't a big deal. "It's just a birthday party," I used to think. "She's so young she won't remember anyway."

And then my husband got stationed near our family. Not super close; some are still an eight-hour drive away, but it's much better than a three-hour flight. So, we've attended everything. We've been to birthday parties for nieces and nephews that we've never attended before, engagement parties, minor holiday celebrations, and we've even been able to surprise a few family members with spontaneous visits. Our weekends are full now; we don't often have a weekend to relax, and we don't see friends very often. To be honest, sometimes we're completely exhausted. But now, our son knows the name of all of his aunts and uncles and he's happy to see each of his grandparents, because he knows how much fun it is to be with them.

And although it's been great to be with family for celebrations, we've also been there for each other in times of need. Much of my family was greatly impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and it was so amazing and empowering to be able to call and say, "Do you need a ride out of there? We can come get you." Or, "We can be there in three hours to help you clean up and re-build." Finally, after years of living away from everyone, we've been able to be a part of our family. I'm so thankful for this chance, even though it's temporary. It pains me to know that in a year or so we'll be transferred again, and our next location may be far away. I've seen what it's like for our son to have close extended family, and I want to hold on tight; I don't want him to see everyone twice a year. It's not enough. There's never enough time.

This year, I'm thankful for our family who is patient with us when we're far away, when we call and say we can't attend because of the distance. And I'm thankful to them for embracing us like we never left when we finally did arrive and could finally attend all the events, big and small, that we'd been missing for years. I'm so sorry we missed so much, but I know we'll miss more. Know that we'll always be there when we can, and we cannot express the gratitude we have for your patience, support, and unconditional love.

Sarahlynne loves writing for Shine as a Parenting Guru. She's also the co-founder of merelymothers, a website that discusses and analyzes parenthood from an educator point of view.