A new assignment is always filled with new adventures, with new things to learn and explore together as a family. The mom-owned company Wanderwild is dedicated to creating the right gear for kids as they embark on these new adventures, whether it be at a new school, exploring new territory, or even picnicking in their new backyard. Their mission is to encourage families to make memories together like the Bermingham family. Meet military and “Wanderwild” mom, Emily Bermingham.
Wanderwild: New assignments and adventures are a part of military family life. What is your current family adventure? What has your experience been like and how does it influence your parenting?
Emily: We just completed our 7th move in the past 11 years for the military! Moving frequently can be challenging, but I also believe they are opportunities for adventure and growth personally and as a family. We’ve loved every place we have lived in. We really enjoy exploring and take advantage of what each area has to offer. Our favorite duty stations have been Thailand and Alaska. And we are loving our current adventure in Hawaii.
Parenting in each new duty station presents different challenges. For example, learning to navigate Thailand with two small children was tough. Bangkok is not an easy city to get around, we didn’t own a car, and the streets were not accessible for strollers. The kids were really young. I carried our youngest on my back and often had to carry our older one, plus I carried all our water.
I learned that I didn’t need a huge diaper bag with changes of clothes or lots of snacks. I needed a good attitude and a sense of adventure to navigate the challenges of getting us out of the house and enjoying it.
We’ve taken every opportunity we can to travel and explore in each place that we’ve lived. And we’ve been fortunate to travel a lot. We took the kids to 9 different countries in Asia, and they have been to several states in the US. Since my husband was working some of the time in Asia, I often found myself alone with two young children in foreign countries. I learned that a lot of the things I found important before, like the fancy crib, weren’t really that important.
Learning about new cultures, meeting a lot of new people, and seeing cool things were way more important than a lot of the things I thought were essential before. We hope that we are giving our kids an expanded worldview and the concept that they are global citizens.
Wanderwild: Each new assignment is filled with unknowns and new opportunities to explore. What are your suggestions to get the family out and about to get to know their new surroundings?
Emily: I always make a “bucket list” of places to see and things to do when I get to a new duty station. The bucket list always includes hikes, the top tourist sites, local restaurants, and little known favorite hangouts that people suggest. When someone suggests something or talks about how amazing a playground or a restaurant is, I usually take out my phone and mark it on my maps as “want to go”. Then when I get home, I add it to my bucket list for when we decide to go there. The bucket list is always growing!
I always join a local Facebook page, usually a mom’s group. These are usually great pages for getting tips on restaurants, best places for family adventures, and even where to sign the kids up for sports. Tapping into all the different resources available also makes for a smoother transition and helps to set up life quicker. When you are new to an area, half the challenge of getting out to adventure is knowing where to go.
And finally, the other half of the battle is packing up and getting out of the house. For that, I’ve become a pro at having the kids carry their lunch, sunscreen, water, and other necessities in their backpacks.
Wanderwild: Summer is a time that many military families get orders to PCS. What is your biggest piece of advice for moms who will be moving this summer?
Emily: Every time we PCS, there are two things I try and remember:
- I don’t need to carry as much stuff as I think I do.
- I can always reframe my attitude and every challenge to make it easier to tackle, I just have to choose to do that.
Moving is challenging and each move is unique. Acknowledging the rollercoaster of emotions is helpful. And asking for help is OK! I remind myself that the process is longer than just the actual move itself, and I give myself several months on either side to adjust and transition. Giving ourselves a bit of grace can make those times when we feel like we’re failing or when nothing is going right so much easier to get through.
I think the frequent moves make the kids so much closer. When we get to a new duty station, they don’t have any stuff or any friends for a while and play really well together. They invent games with couch cushions and empty water bottles, and we realize that what matters is that the four of us are together, not what kind of house we have or what toys we give the kids. We make sure to have family dinner every night and an established bedtime routine. Establishing a routine is really key for our family and the children’s happiness.
Wanderwild: With as many moves as military families accomplish, how do you get your kids excited and engaged for a new adventure?
Emily: We like to try and learn about the new place we are going. When we found out that we were moving to Hawaii, we had a luau party complete with flower leis and Hawaiian cookie treats. I borrowed and bought books about Hawaii. The luau party and books made them so excited! Our children are just getting to an age where leaving their friends is difficult. Acknowledging those feelings of loss was important to help us be able to focus on the exciting parts of the new adventures ahead.