The oldest of our Homefront sons graduated from high school last month. It’s been a long and winding road. He attended preschool in three different states: Hawaii, two different schools in Missouri, and Washington State. He spent Kindergarten in Kansas, grades one and two in Northern Virginia, grades three through five in Beijing, grades six though ten at elementary, middle and high schools in Northern Virginia and finished strong in grades 11 and 12 in Taipei. Using my fingers to add them all up, I count 11 schools.
My stomach sinks a little when I say it out loud, but my heart swells with pride. Zack has Asperger’s Syndrome, so change is more challenging for him than most kids. Each move brought the potential for major setbacks, but Zack not only overcame adversity but also managed to triumph. Like his brothers, Zack has always known that moving is just a part of the life we live. His dad does important work, and to do so, we all must move around the world where the job takes him.
Changing schools in the middle of high school is a challenge for any kid; for Zack, moving not only schools, but countries, two years ago, for his Junior and Senior years, was a potential disaster. In fact, the school administrators didn’t want to admit him. They feared that the timing, combined with Zack’s learning and social challenges, was a recipe for disaster and would set him up for failure. I know my kid though, so I used my mama bear instincts and sleuthing skills to score him an interview, and he won them over. He hit the ground running with a heavy load of AP and Honors classes and active involvement in the theater department.
Zack applied to and got into college and will attend his top choice school, with an academic scholarship. But first, he will take a gap year. He will move with us this summer and take advantage of the opportunity to learn a new language and explore another country. Zack is poised and ready to take on the world. He has taken positive elements from every school he attended and left the rest behind. I can see that he will do the same as he moves forward.
Moving around to different cities and different schools has given Zack the opportunity to see what he likes and doesn’t like about each environment. As he moves into adulthood, he is well prepared to make decisions about his career path and destinations. Sure, it would have been simpler to stay in one place; be friends with the same kids; live in the same house; for his whole childhood. But, I think the perspective he gained from the vast experiences he has had in his 17 years will serve him well, long term.
A childhood as a military kid, third culture kid, whatever label you want to use, has helped shape Zack into the emotionally intelligent, well spoken, worldly young man that he is.