Jacksonville is a military town, the home of Naval Station Mayport and Naval Air Station Jacksonville and all the brave sailors and their amazing families. If you are indeed a parent in Jacksonville, chances are likely that you have had the honor of knowing or even being friends with one of them. If you have become friends with a Navy Sailor or spouse in Jacksonville you likely have also experienced the inevitable heartbreak of having them move away.
One of my besties is a Navy Spouse and her wonderful family will pack up and move to another part of the country in a few short months. This is a person who calls me almost daily, volunteers her daughter to catch for my daughter’s pitching lessons (without ever complaining once), and brings me coffee or booze depending on the day. In exchange, her daughter calls me SM for second mom. We have known each other for about 2 years, but they all feel like family.
It first dawned on me that they might someday move away when my friend asked me to go make decorative signs together. She wanted something showing the latitude and longitude of her Jacksonville home to “remember their first house”. I sort of ignored that, because, denial. When the unavoidable happened, and her husband received his official orders to move to their new location, I got to see first-hand how amazing Navy spouses really are. Here are 5 lessons I learned from from my friend and a Navy Spouse.
Make your House a Home
How long a military family stays in a given location can vary greatly, sometimes as short as a few months. My friend, a Navy Spouse in Jacksonville, didn’t know how long they would be in their house. That didn’t stop her from making it a home for her family. Hang the pictures, get the new pavers, paint a room, plant a garden. Make it yours for the time that you’re there and make it better for those who will come after you’re gone.
Get Involved in Your Community
My friend is an active member with her children’s Parent Teacher Association. She spear-headed a very successful fundraiser that raised tens of thousands of dollars for the school and went toward getting teachers new supplies and materials. This mom got sponsors and family buy-in and has improved upon it each year. She put her heart into this effort and even though her children may not reap the benefits, it doesn’t matter to her.
Write a Note
When is the last time you wrote a thank you note? It is a nicety and little bit of sophistication that has largely slipped by the wayside as our communication becomes more and more casual. Well, my friend writes thank you notes. She writes birthday cards, she writes notes just because. And they are cute notes on nice stationary. Every time I get one, I think, why don’t more people do this? Why don’t I do this? It makes me so happy.
Be All In
When my friend’s husband got his orders to move, I told my own, “Wow. Nothing has changed. She is still completely involved, she is still 100% all in with everything that’s happening. I think if it was me, I would have started to pull back, check out a bit.” This is an annoying but pretty common defense mechanism that humans have: when something they love is about to end, they pull away in order to minimize their own sadness. Yet she continued to plan sleepovers and birthdays and get people gifts and come to pitching practice. She is still active in PTA, her children have continued in the sports and extra curricular activities in Jacksonville that they love. When I mentioned this to her, she shared that in the past, when friends know they are about to move, those friends often pull away. But not them, and not us.
Accept What You Cannot Change and Handle it With Grace
Moving to a place you’ve never been in an area that’s very different from Jacksonville? Research it, find connections and think about all the positives of this new location. Selling your beloved first house in a great neighborhood? Make it as beautiful and fresh as possible and choose a family who you know will make beautiful memories there too. Leaving your sports team that is more like a family? Look for new programs so your kids can continue to thrive (but never forget your actual favorites).
I am still working on that last lesson. It is hard for me to accept that I cannot change that one of my very favorite families is moving so far away. I will try but not sure how gracefully I will handle it. Let’s just say I’m grateful she likes to talk on the phone.
Cheers to all military personnel, their spouses and families. April is the Month of the Military Child and there are currently 1.2 million military children in the United States. If you have the chance to be friends with a Navy Spouse in Jacksonville and their awesome families, I suggest you take it.
Mattie Shepherd moved to Jax Beach from Cincinnati about 3 years ago. She was a school psychologist for 9 years and enjoys using behaviorism on her husband and 2 daughters (JK, kind of). Mattie co-leads a Daisy Troop, is very proud to be on PTA board and cheers LOUDLY watching her daughter play ALL the sports. Mattie loves exploring Jax, especially in search of parks, coffee, cocktails and delish food. At home, she likes baking with her girls, dreaming of buying a fixer upper and covering it with #shiplap, and cropping messes out of her Instagram shots.