One of the questions I dread the most is “Where are you from?” It’s a question that Wesley Crusher, Jake Sisko, Molly O’Brien and Naomi Wildman can’t answer in a straightforward way either. They’re all brats like me — a term military kids adopt to describe their unusual upbringing. It may sound like an insult to call a kid a “brat,” but it’s a label worn with pride by real military kids.
In the first episode of Deep Space NineBenjamin Sisko talks to Jean-Luc Picard about his mission as the new station commander.
PICARD: I have been made aware by Starfleet of your objections to this assignment. I would have thought that after three years on the construction sites of Utopia Planitia, you would be ready for a change.
SISKO: I have a son that I’m raising alone, captain. It’s not the ideal environment.
PICARD: Unfortunately, as Starfleet officers, we don’t always have the luxury of serving in an ideal environment.
As all who serve know, you go where you are commanded, and Starfleet officers are no exception. This has a profound effect on military families, like Ben’s son, Jake. In “Emissary,” father and son just posted – a word that enters a brat’s vocabulary at an early age. Being transferred means sending your family somewhere, sometimes very far away, often without your contribution.
When I was younger than Jake, we were stationed as far as we could go and always in the same country. We went from New Brunswick on the east coast to an archipelago in the North Pacific called Haida Gwaii. So when I saw Jake struggle to adjust to his new life, I knew exactly how he felt.
The Sisko family aren’t the only ones aboard DS9 that we see adapting to assignments. The O’Briens are in many ways the epitome of the military family. Molly was born aboard the Business and, at the start of DS9, was experiencing his first assignment. Like many military wives, Keiko has struggled to balance her career with the support of her husband. His sacrifice mirrors that of my mother, who set aside her own professional ambitions to support my father. DS9 very specifically explores this as a stress point in their marriage. Keiko points out that she knew what she was getting into when they got married, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier for her or Molly. Despite the challenges, the O’Briens show how it is possible to successfully raise (and grow) a military family through mutual support and understanding.
One of the reasons the O’Briens’ marriage works is that military families, especially young ones, create support networks, developing a “found family” to replace relatives who often live far away. The children of my parents’ friends took on the role of cousins, and their parents became uncles and aunts. This is reflected in Wesley Crusher’s relationship with the crew of the Business. Each crew member acts as part of their extended family, offering support, encouragement and guidance. The same can be said of Jake and the Officers on DS9, and Naomi Wildman, who has formed very close ties with several members of Traveler‘screw.
NAOMI : My mother says two heads are better than one. Isn’t that also the Borg philosophy?
SEVEN: Simple, but precise.
Naomi’s lack of fear or apprehension about Seven and her former Borg life indicates another brat’s strength. Moving around a lot and – more importantly, interacting with other people who lead transient lives, means it’s hard to get stuck in habits or have a narrow perspective. When you are constantly forced out of your comfort zone, you learn to live with, and even accept, a certain amount of discomfort and loss of control. It’s also hard to be afraid of “the other” when you’re surrounded by people who come from different places.
Wesley Crusher had a childhood where both parents served. His father was killed when Wes was young, which was devastating for both his mother and himself. The possibility of a parent dying on active duty is very real for brats. Not many other children grow up knowing that their parents are in life or death circumstances, sometimes very far from home. My father never served in a combat situation, but my uncle did, as did the parents of several of my childhood friends. This reality can make kids mature faster than kids whose parents don’t work in dangerous fields. There were certainly instances where Starfleet brats were wise beyond their years.
By the end of DS9, the place Jake once found uncomfortable, strange, and frustrating had become his home. He grew into himself aboard the station and became a courageous young man with a rich inner life and great adaptability, with a found family to support him. If the term ‘kid’ was used in the world of star trekhe would probably proudly claim that label, like me.
Robin Spittal (her) is a kid in the Canadian Air Force who moved five times before the age of fifteen. She’s a cosplayer and giant nerd (she realizes that’s redundant.) By day, she works for Faolan’s Pen Publishing. At night, she burns herself with her sci-fi glue gun and binge watches. Twitter: @cosplayandnails