“Your mother talks funny.”
I can’t tell you how many times I heard that growing up. And it wasn’t because she had some kind of rare speech impediment, it was because like thousands of others, I’m not just a military brat… I’m a bi-national military brat.
You see, my mother is Scottish, (with an unmistakeable accent), and my parents met when my Dad was stationed near Edinburgh in the 1950s. And bi-national families like mine are not unfamiliar in the military community. There are multitudes of military children that have been raised in bi-national families, with parents that met and married while one parent was stationed overseas. As a result, many of these kids have extended families that are split between two countries.
It’s difficult enough getting to know your extended family while you’re wandering around the globe as a military brat, but it’s even harder when both halves are not even on the same continent! We would usually visit one half of the family or the other during summer vacations or moves. Which half we visited mostly depended on where we were at the time and where we were moving, but getting together with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins wasn’t something that happened frequently.
Growing up in a bi-national family can also further complicate things for military brats trying to figure out who they are and where they belong in the world. For instance, while my father was deployed in Vietnam, my mother took my sisters and I to live with my grandparents in Edinburgh. While we were there we became immersed in Scottish/British culture and even attended a Scottish school, (that’s my sister and I in our uniforms below). Because we were so young, we also picked up a Scottish accent very quickly. When my Dad returned from Vietnam, he came home to kids that had undergone a fairly extensive cultural makeover. It must have been a bit of a shock when we first opened our mouths and greeted him with our new Scottish brogues!
In school, I also remember being frequently harassed by other students in both countries; in Scotland for being a “Yank,” and in the states for being an “Angus” or “Limey,” (although the latter is a slur more frequently directed at the English… but whatever). Needless to say I survived, and the accent soon faded away. But that kind of experience does leave an impression on you over the years and makes it just a little bit tougher to determine where you fit in.
But on the more positive side, my family also embraces an expanded range of cultural traditions from both countries, which I’m sure many bi-national brats can identify with. I love being American, but I also love my Scottish heritage. (It might cause some groans, but I’ll not only eat haggis… I LOVE haggis! And the sound of bagpipes just brings a smile to my face!) Being raised in this type of environment is just another in a long list of reasons why I think most brats are more embracing of ethnic and cultural diversity back here in the states. Our distinct backgrounds and rich, multicultural experiences have helped us reject stereotypes and made us more tolerant human beings.
Growing up in a bi-national family adds just another wrinkle to the ongoing issues with identity that many military brats struggle with at various times in their lives. Minor to some… not so minor to others. But even with the complications, I still wouldn’t change it for the world! And I know a majority of other brats feel the same way.