Published on July 13, 2012 by Mari
Moving around is tough. You (usually) have to plan, research, pack, clean, adjust – the list goes on. When you’re in the military, whether you’re the sponsor or the dependent, moving is inevitable. It becomes a part of your lives, as well as your kids’.
We have been in Hawaii since January 2011. It was probably the hardest transition we’ve had thus far. The main reason was because it took a tough toll on my teenaged daughter. The school she had to go to was mostly local and even though my daughter is part Polynesian, the local kids did not accept her because she was not “truly local.” Since she looked local, the military kids didn’t accept her, either. They overheard her say she was Samoan once, so they either kept their distance or blatantly disrespected her on a daily basis.
Seeing my daughter sad and miserable was maddening. She tried to put on a strong front, but her grades began to fall (she had always been on honor roll) and she started to miss school, insisting she was not feeling well. At first, I thought she was being a typical teenager, but then I noticed how unhappy she was. I decided that I would look into other options for her.
Private school quickly became a lost cause. We just could not afford it. Charter schools were too far or already at full capacity. Fortunately, I became friends with an Army wife (we are Navy) who offered to let me use her address so that my daughter could attend school on post. 98% of the kids were military, so no one was ever considered “new” for too long. My daughter seemed thrilled at the idea, so I went ahead and switched schools. It meant that I would have to drive farther every day, which also meant I had to wake my one year old up earlier, but it was worth it to see my teenager happy.
The change I saw in my daughter was remarkable. She was back to her happy self and regained her self-confidence. I had no idea that being around other military would impact her so much. Neither did she. She would come home and tell me about how often the kids moved around. She came to appreciate how well her peers adjusted to change. Yes, she acknowledged that it sucked to move around so much, but at the end of it all, she knew she would be grateful for the different experiences each move brought. Even though her initial school experience in Hawaii was hard, it made her a stronger individual and led her to a new school that she thoroughly enjoyed.
We are scheduled to leave Hawaii next summer. I am personally relieved that we will at least be moving when she completes 9th grade. My husband and I both learned (the hard way) how important it is to scout a place before you move there. When we came to Hawaii, we just went on what other people said and minimum information provided online. The next time we move, we will make sure to do as many of the following things that we can:
- Visit the area beforehand – This isn’t always possible, however, if you can make it out to the place you’re supposed to move to beforehand – DO IT!
- Trust your GUT – I think I pretty much convinced myself that Pearl City was a great place to live. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent area, but it’s not a place I would want my teenage daughter to walk around alone OR with friends. I don’t even think I wanted my husband walking around alone at night….
- Reach out – I had no idea how much military support there was out here. Since my family has roots here, I didn’t think it would be an issue “blending” in Hawaii, but I wish I had utilized some sort of military advice outlet about moving to the island. Do not be afraid to seek out information and opinions. It helps!
- Expect the worst, hope for the best – Yes, this sounds terrible, but let me explain. I thought that since my mother is Samoan, my daughter would have no problem making friends and fitting in. I also thought my husband would be around a lot more. I was wrong on both fronts, which made the adjustment period even harder. My daughter was miserable and my husband was away so much, my neighbors started to wonder if I was really married! Once I took on the mindset that “If he’s here, it’s a bonus”, life got easier.
- Call the school and speak with staff – My daughter’s teachers at the first school she went to were pretty interesting. Of the seven teachers she had, she really only liked one. I remembered when I emailed her science teacher about a grade; the teacher seemed REALLY surprised that I was taking the time to discuss her grades. The office staff seemed extremely lackadaisical, though there was one receptionist who was very nice. This also goes hand in hand with your gut feeling.
The fact that my daughter will be entering 10th grade the next time we move scares me. I fear that we will get re-assigned in the middle of her senior year. I know that I will do whatever I can to ensure she finishes her senior year with her friends and at the school she is happy with, and my husband is supportive of that. Although moving around is tough on our kids, as long as they have our support and understanding, they will look back on all this with a smile and a kind of wisdom that cannot be matched by anyone else who has not been in their shoes.