I had never heard the term Navy Brat while growing up as one, but apparently it is a popular term. According to Urban dictionary, a Navy Brat is “A child of someone in the Navy. This is who has moved several times (to numerous military bases), owns a military id, enjoys buying items at the navy exchange (because it is not taxed) and is usually someone who respects authority.” The first two and last descriptions are quite apt in my case.
Coming to think of it, in my 15 years of schooling (No, I didn’t repeat any grades, I was counting right from preschool), I’ll need both hands plus a few fingers to count all the schools I have attended. You may ask, “Was it difficult to keep moving?” Well, it may have been for my parents who had to deal with the packing and unpacking and all the logistics associated with it. It never bothered me that we sometimes moved even in the middle of a school year. For me, it was simply going from one city to another, one naval base to a new one, one more new school and a bunch of new faces to get acquainted with. It was fun, as far as I can remember. And just like all my childhood memories that are patchy at best, I remember some teachers whom I loved, some that I dreaded, a cool uniform complete with a tie and jacket at one of the convents I attended (before getting into the Kendriya Vidyalaya system) and random things like that.
I know many who went to the same school right from first grade through twelfth. I wonder how they did that because I sure would have been bored out of my mind (blame the Gemini in me who loves variety and change). Many have asked me if I miss having that one best friend whom I have known since my first day of school. Honestly, I don’t.
The lack of constant friendships was compensated by some special friends (especially one Ms. M) whom I met because our parents were friends. I have known her since we were 2 or 3 years old. She and a few others were also Navy kids and though we lost touch midway, we reconnected in our late teens. We have stayed in touch after that, and Ms. M and I share a friendship that we both cherish (I am quite sure she’ll agree with me).
Some early memories of my Naval upbringing include the occasional parties and family day outings on board the ship on which my father was posted. These parties were fun, because all the kids were left in one room, with a television and a constant supply of food and soft drinks while the adults convened in a different area of the ship. Other than the times when the parents came to check on us, we were pretty much on our own. The family day outings were interesting too — fun picnics at sea with some games, activities and of course, food.
There are numerous other memories associated with the different places we visited (Note to self: here’s a topic to explore) and specific events that are etched in my mind. Those childhood memories might fade with time, but the qualities I learned from my unique upbringing will always be a part of me.
I believe that being Navy or military brats brings a special kind of solidarity among our creed. To give you an example, when I joined college I met one Ms. A, and we felt a connection — something only we understood. The frequent transfers, the schools we attended, the language we spoke and the overall experiences were all common. Twenty years later, she and I still recollect how we had felt those instant ‘bratty’ vibes.
I wouldn’t be bragging when I say that military brats, though the name may make us sound like naughty, spoiled kids, are actually pretty well-behaved and level headed. We are all super resilient and can adapt and adjust to new people, places and situations really well. Having received these lessons early in life, we have carried them into our adulthood and regardless of whether others (including our parents :)) agree with us or not, we definitely are a special breed. Cheers to all the military brats out there!