Real Life: To Our Children The Military Is A Job

I work in PR and so on occasion I have to speak to journalists. One of my clients is a defence client so yesterday I was contacted by this chap from a production company which is about to be commissioned for a documentary called ‘Toy Soldiers.’ This is an OB DOC, or ‘Observational Documentary’, which is basically fly on the wall television. Now, I have my fluffy moments but on the whole I get to work with pretty decent journalists. Halfway through the call, I was ready to napalm the TV researcher.

This is some of their spiel:

“We are making a new Children’s Documentary Film where children tell us their stories about when mum or dad have gone off to war. The film will focus on children between 6 -13 years old, looking at how they try and maintain normality as their lives are interrupted by a war that they might not understand, taking place in a country they may never have heard of. The focus is on the children, life through their eyes and how they try and maintain their lives as normally as possible.”

He wanted to know how children coped with the idea that mummy or daddy essentially ‘killed people’ and what is the service child’s reaction to war? He was excited about the idea of getting the children to illustrate their perceptions of war and what mummy and daddy do so that they could turn it into an animation.

Err woah!! Slow down there chum.

Of course, I said, ‘We rationalise death and the morality of taking life with our children frequently. We consider under which circumstances it’s OK to take human life and those that it isn’t. Well before Hagar deploys to Afghanistan, we sit down with out 6 year old and 2 year old and analyse the geo-political implications of the conflict. We assess Hagar’s strategic input and the execution of the plan. Then with large maps on the living room floor, we plot the campaign so that we can track UK plcs progress and then on his return we hope we can applaud Hagar’s murderous victory should the outcome have been successful.’

Err ‘No, you total knob head!’ I didn’t actually say that.

I think I said, ‘On the whole we try and make as little of it as possible. Afghanistan is a word not a place to most children. We definitely don’t focus on what is actually happening out there. It’s likely that you are going to be filming children that are exactly the same as non-serving children, who are interested in Ben 10 and Peppa Pig and other vile, mass marketed children’s products like my own charming delights!’

The idea of the Grenade illustrating his perception of war filled me with horror. Partly because he is massively into bloody, treacherous, gruesome dinosaur battles. It would make him seem like a little sociopath and it wouldn’t be a reflection of Hagar’s role in Afghanistan but more an insight to the mind of Dinosaur-mad 6 year old.

I wish the media, and also to some extent Joe Public, could get their heads around the concept that to our children being in the military is a job. It’s what daddy or mummy does. Clearly, it’s not JUST a job as it takes special sort of person to do it, someone who is willing to put his life on the line for their country and fellows in arms.

Those of us that decided to marry into it. We are not some weird social experiment to be prodded and poked about by fluffy TV types. How many kids give a toss about what their parents do for a living? How many kids are remotely interested in their parents? They are interested in toys, tv, sweets, treats, working out how they get their own way and then when they get older, the opposite sex, how to attract it and how to spend their parent’s money. I want it to be this way for as long as feasibly possible. I don’t ram it down my kids throats and we try to keep life as business as usual so the impact is minimal. We take each day, day by day and that is all we can do.

Head down, grit teeth, smile and wave. Smile and wave.

7 Comments

  1. I just found your blog and I wanted to add a few things as a military (US) wife myself. My husband just got back from Afghanistan and my oldest daughter who is 6 for the longest time did not understand the implications of the place he was. Then one night by accident she saw the news (I thought she was in bed at the time) and she saw the reality of what Afghanistan the word really meant. It took a while to calm her and explain that Daddy was as safe as possible and that he was fighting bad guys (we don’t use the word kill). Personally I don’t know if I would have changed the way I dealt with his deployment. Sure, she found out the hard way that Daddy was in danger, but no, she really did not need to know either. We really do work on a need to know basis around here. Sometimes our plans on how to raise the issues of the military with our kids don’t work out as we intended them to, but exposing children to the realities of war before they are able to process and understand it is also just as harsh.

    (sorry for the novel in your comments)

    1. Hi Kat – welcome, and thank you for commenting – all essays welcome whenever you have the urge to share. I hope you keep popping back from time to time. I don’t think there is anything to be gained from giving information until the time is right. 6 is so young and our job is protect our children as much as possible. We operate a business as usual philosophy, although we don’t have to deal with the length of deployments that you guys do. For what is worth, I would have done exactly the same as you. I am glad that your husband returned home safely – you can hand over the explanation of his job to him now. ‘Ah there you are dear, home just in time to explain the intricacies of your work to our daughter – perfect. I am just popping to the shops. See you later.’

    1. Thanks! Yes, I had a quick butchers and thought blimey – are we at odds? And then thought about it and decided Hagar, is the violent war-mongering warrior, I am the confused, pacifist wife wondering WTF. However, I do think that maybe pacifism is a luxury provided by soldiers and then I returned vacuously back to the husbandry.

      1. In my world destruction happens from the inside for the pettiest of things spurred on by media vampires.

        Intellectuals (wannabe liberals who spend more on sweatshop produced items than fighting corruption) have wondered why the pettiest issues make the best vehicle for implosion. Did I mention I hate wannabes? Hot or cold. Lukewarm, spitcha out, knowatimean, knowatimean? Rev 3:16. Respect yo.

        (I am amused that it was 3:16. Not intended but it works)

        The media invented viral marketing way before the War of the Worlds panic. Ed Bernays perfected it, but it was already a intermediate level science.

        I’m about to stuff a MacGyver certified potato in sock in the tailpipe of their news van. Figuratively speaking. I swear.

  2. I served 15years in the RAF Regt cmpltleting 5 tours of NI, Bosnia and the Gulf and the only time I wax questioned by my children was when my eldest who was 4 at the time said to me, “mummy says you are going away to shoot bad people”. My reply to him was, “no. I am going to stop bad people from shooting”. He looked at me fur a few seconds and says “ok”. Nothing more was needed to be said and s they got older it didn’t bother them, it was dads going away to do his job or I was on exercise

    Just another wannabe journalist looking for a none issue story

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