Month of the Military Child: Wishing on dandelions with some of Yokota’s military children

Photo by Meagan Henry
Photo by Meagan Henry

Month of the Military Child: Wishing on dandelions with some of Yokota’s military children

by Meagan Henry
Stripes Japan

As we come to the end of The Month of the Military Child, it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge that this April has been like none we have ever seen before. COVID-19 has caused families everywhere to face change, uncertainty and inevitable stress. As military families, those descriptions aren’t completely new to us, yet we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation during this pandemic. Schools are closed, travel is restricted and social distancing is in effect. Though we are fortunate to feel safe and secure, here in Japan, we certainly do not feel normal.  

I only recently found out that the official flower of the military child is the dandelion. It’s only fitting that here at Yokota Air Base, we see them blooming everywhere throughout the month of April when we officially celebrate our military children. Like the cheerful yellow dandelion, we celebrate and admire the resiliency and heartiness of military children. Despite frequent moves, deployments, and other changes, they truly have the ability to “bloom anywhere.” But dandelions also shed their fluffy white seeds which float through the air like magic. As the Military Child Education Coalition puts it, military children are also like those dandelions “ready to fly in the breezes that take them to new adventures, new lands, and new friends.” 

For my family, as it is for many others, puffy dandelions mean one thing: wishes! We cannot walk past a dandelion without my nearly 5-year-old son picking it, closing his eyes, and blowing with all his might to make a wish. So, this year, when Connor told me he wished, “that I could just go to Kindergarten,” the strangeness of our situation really hit me. Not only does my son miss the structure, excitement, and social experience of going to school; but he also might not be really sure given our “for-now normal” that Kindergarten is something that is going to happen for him.

Suspecting that I wasn’t alone, I reached out to our community here at Yokota to see what some of the other kids out there were wishing for right now. As might be expected, there were a ton of amazing wishes that could only come from the imaginations of children (narwhals and huge dinosaurs are still in), but the difference was how many wishes were about ways for our lives to return to normal. Whether directly saying it like Ben, 14, phrased it: "I would wish that the virus would go away so everything could go back to normal.” Or, wishing for something special that is just not possible right now, like Corvin, 5, who wished “Japan LEGOland or Disneyland to open up so we can go!”— the sentiment was clear.

One of the biggest trends among wishes of kids of all ages was to spend time with friends. “I wish I could see my friends again. I miss them so much,” Emily, 6, said. Dayton, a 4-year-old, feel the same, he wants “for my friend to come and play.” Sabrina, who just turned 9, shared, “I wish this whole thing would be over so I could go back to school and see my teacher and friends and have a birthday party with my friends.” A lot of wishes actually centered around birthday parties, which although memorable and still special, just won’t be the same this year for many kids. One family shared that they arrived at Yokota just a couple of weeks before the impacts of COVID-19 hit the community. As a result, they haven’t been able to move out of transition mode as expected, and their three children, Trey, age 5; Raelyn, age 4; and, Eli, age 2, “pray every night ‘for everyone to be my friend.’” 

There are so many amazing resources out there to help everyone families through this time, from educational providers to health organizations and even within the base community. Seek out those resources and remember there is no one answer to how to get by during this time. As Sesame Street reminds us, “your ‘for-now normal’ is going to be as unique as each member of your family.” For every wish of a “real-life unicorn in the backyard, with a pool of slime and orbeez” (Braelyn, age 5) or “unlimited wishes” (Joseph, age 13), there is also the kid that wishes for “good Wi-Fi” (Aaron, age 12) or even, “to graduate and be able to go to college in the fall” (Annie, age 18). Solutions and successes for getting through this pandemic are not going to look the same for everyone, so one of the best ways to find them is to keep conversations like these going with our children. 

For us, as military families, we can make this a time to celebrate our strengths and the amazing adaptability of our kids. Much like a PCS or deployment, this is not an easy time, and our children are doubtlessly picking up on the stress of this situation and dealing with it in their own ways. Asking kids what’s going on, what they need, or even what they would wish for if they could have anything right now, can be an excellent starting point or reminder of how to handle current changes and uncertainty.  

As Month of the Military Child comes to an end and we begin to look to these future wishes, let’s remember our kids have a head start on adaptability and resiliency. They are also part of an amazing community to support them and their parents through hard times. Some days are going to be daunting, but as we already know, military children are our youngest heroes.

Photo by Bernadette Dozier.
Photo by Bernadette Dozier.


Photo by Anthony Shower.


Photo by Cari Payer.

-----

Meagan Henry is a military spouse currently living at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo with her husband, 4-year-old son, 2-year-old daughter and very furry dog. Her background is in educational technology, and she has contributed to research on learning, self-regulation and resilience and parenting. She has worked as part of research teams at The Walt Disney Company, Sesame Workshop and New York University, and is currently a freelance writer. 

Subscribe to our Stripes Pacific newsletter and receive amazing travel stories, great event info, cultural information, interesting lifestyle articles and more directly in your inbox!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook: Stars and Stripes Pacific
Flipboard: Stars and Stripes Community Sites

Looking to travel while stationed abroad? Check out our other Pacific community sites!
Stripes Okinawa
Stripes Korea
Stripes Guam

Recommended Content