How often do you hear, “I’m not a suspect” from your spouse or partner because you cannot relate on a “civilian level” with people? Do you ever catch yourself inside your own home behaving in a way that is only suitable for work?
Do you let go of work and embrace your life outside of it? How do we mesh work life and home life without damaging either?
There are numerous facets of a police officer’s family life that merit a discussion, but I want to focus on our kids. Having grown up a cop’s kid, I know that while in many ways it can be great, it isn’t always easy.
Answering Tricky Questions
I’m often asked, “How did you explain the shooting you were involved in to your kids?”
The short answer is: I didn’t.
If they were older at the time, I probably would’ve had to have that conversation. But they were three and five years old. What was the point? I was ill-prepared to explain that to toddlers.
More importantly, I didn’t want my beautiful children to know of the ugliness in the world just yet. I wanted them to be toddlers!
Regardless of how hard I try, the very nature of my job(s) causes me to view videos, and talk on the phone or to others about horrible things. They have been inundated with talks about critical incidents, police officers being murdered, and the harsh reality of their mother coming home with bruises on her arms, legs, and face.
Over time, they’ve grown to ask, “Do you shoot bad guys mommy?”
My answer has always been, “I will only shoot someone who tries to hurt another person or hurt your mommy.”
That seems to work.
My girl is now six. She calls my duty weapon “that shooter thing.” My boy seems to be “over it” and is more fascinated by ‘Monster Trucks.’
Discussions involving what happens at work frequently occur when I am taking off the gear and putting it away. I left my knife on the sink and it generated a conversation.
“Mommy, do you use this to saw people’s heads off?”
I don’t let her watch inappropriate television, so perhaps my ‘filter’ isn’t working so well.
She overhears things and she pays attention. She pats my side on the way into the store and says, “Got your gun momma?” This is huge progress, because she used to say that — very loudly — inside the store.
Being a Cop’s Kid
She is a cop’s kid and so was I. I knew way more than an average kid did about the awful stuff in the world. This is not because my parents failed to protect me.
It’s because I was a kid and I was nosey. I listened around corners when they talked. I paid attention at the family squad parties.
The kids at school know you’re a cop. Your child is proud of you, and the younger they are, the sooner it will get out. But sometimes being a cop’s kid is a ’burden’ to bear. I got on the school bus in the third grade and one tormentor kept calling me a “pig’s kid” — to a third grader, that’s pretty distressing.
I came home and told my mom about it. She replied, “Just oink at them.”
Armed with my new tactic, I boarded the bus the next day. She called me a “pig’s kid” again and I oinked. The laughter that followed embarrassed only her, and my primary method of survival was forged.
6 Steps to Being a Better Police Parent
So with my life experiences in hand, I have a plan for my kids.
1. Answer their questions truthfully. We cannot exactly teach our children to be honest if we aren’t honest. Kids are smart. They will know when you are lying.
2. Prepare them. They need to know what the plan is in public if something bad happens.
3. Teach them. Tell them what you are learning about. Help them understand what you do. (You are already their hero).
4. Provide gun safety to your kids. If it is mysterious, it will be dangerous. Make sure they know where your gun is and why they need to leave it alone. Disassemble it, show them what it is and explain how powerful it is. When (not if) you are carrying off duty, they need to know that it is there and that it is normal for you.
5. Get in the now. Maybe put a little less focus on your retirement date and more on how fast graduation day is coming. I get that the future is important, but someone recently told me, “You spend so much time looking at what has happened and what is going to happen, you’re missing what is going on right now.”
6. Get a hug, or a kiss, or five minutes where you stare at their beautiful, sleeping faces each night when you get home. Find peace in those moments. Those are the reasons you work and live.
Using these six simple steps, you can go a long way toward improving your home life overall, and specifically your relationship with your kids.