After my January column on children of law enforcement officers (LEOs), I received a nice email from a reader whose daughter works for the New York City Police Department. It never occurred to me that parents of LEOs might face the same pride and fears that children of LEOs do.
The following is a synopsis of her nice email. “My husband and I are parents of a NYPD Crime Scene Unit Detective. I have to tell you that being a parent of a police officer can be absolutely excruciating. Our quiet and humble cheerleader daughter made her way to her Masters and study of forensics and crime scenes. We never imagined she would take a job with NYPD.”
Their daughter started as a foot cop in the Bronx, but currently works with non-breathing human bodies. She no longer fights living and squirmy criminals.
The email said, “Every day was difficult because I imagined her in the worse situations possible. Finally, I went to counseling and realized my job as a parent was over.”
She told me that they raised two smart and educated daughters to be independent women. She knew in her head that her LEO daughter was cautious, independent and wise, but she felt differently in her heart.
She went on to say, “My daughter was always in my prayers. The killing of police officers is rampant today. It occurs in New York City and in hometown USA. It doesn’t matter where they are, they are targets. I guess what I am saying is the family of police officers are heroes too. They watch their loved ones sacrifice for others. What amazing people they are.”
LEOs might say that their job is all fun and games, that they were taught to sit in a patrol car and do nothing except eat doughnuts. They might say that their job is very stress free and easy. It’s possible that LEOs might try to express this farce to their parents, but most parents see through that type of dialogue.
LEOs tend to think of their environment much differently than non-law enforcement officers. After encountering many dangerous issues, they become suspicious and wary of many people. Because of the higher standard that they are held, many become nitpicky about following the law, even if they were renegades, rebels or law-breakers at one time.
The dark side of the earth is the opposite side from the sun. In the movie “Star Wars,” the dark side is a galaxy far, far away. A noteworthy psychological issue LEOs face is understanding the opposite side of their usual emotions, the dark side. Most of their parents share that same feeling. LEOs see a lot of bad things quickly, then even quicker, they see a dark side of the world that many people never see. This galaxy far, far away makes some become cynical, and many foster increased anxiety or depression while they try to manage their problematic life. LEOs face their own anger, fear, and aggression as well as the anger, fear, and aggression of others. While their parents try to adapt, LEOs struggle to understand and overcome deep questions of identity, truth and liberty.
A parent’s job is often said to end when the last child moves out of the house. Parents are supposed to be able to push their adult children out of the nest, stop caring for them and stop trying to make their decisions. But because of intense love and today’s child-centered families, many parents don’t follow that job description.
Even though they know about the dangerous profession their law enforcement child has chosen, no parent is prepared to deal with them being involved in a critical incident. They quickly learn about the things their child can encounter, and they realize that it’s unrealistic to assume they’ll never face danger. Being a parent of a LEO can be absolutely excruciating in a galaxy far, far away, and even in hometown USA. The sun always shines and the parents of LEOs are always heroes.