I have always wondered, as I look into my children’s eyes, how they view our lifestyle. The law enforcement lifestyle, that is. At such young ages, I know they see a difference. They ask questions about why their daddy is working at night when their friend’s daddy’s are at home. They question why he sleeps during the day and why we can’t have friends over during the day to play. They noticed these things more when we moved into a neighborhood full of families. We play with neighborhood children whose families don’t live the law enforcement lifestyle. I always answer their questions as best as I can explaining their daddy’s very important, heroic job.
However, there are times I still wonder what they are quietly thinking, but are unable to verbalize. That is when I decided to switch gears. I wanted to gain more insight and background into what my children may experience, how they may feel or view situations. For this kind of situation, it is helpful to view through a different lens.
That is when I talked with Crystal, a cop’s daughter. She was able to give us an awesome view point on what it is like growing up first responder style. Bonus: she is funny, too 😉 Some of the rules she talks about are SPOT ON! Even if you don’t have kids yet, her story is so relatable. I can absolutely see my husband doing so many of the things her dad did, as well.
*PPW=Proud Police Wife
PPW: How many years did your father work in law enforcement?
Crystal: My dad worked in law enforcement for about 18 years. He started out as a uniformed officer and towards the end of his career he worked for a multi-agency taskforce. Over the years, he worked as a patrol officer, in the crime scene identification unit, with the K-9 unit, and for local and federal taskforces – sometimes undercover as well. After 18 years, he’d had enough of dealing with the life and the dangers it posed to himself and our family. So, he quit, cashed in his pension, and started a restaurant.
PPW: Growing up, do you feel like your life was “different” compared to your peers? If yes, how so?
Crystal: Yes. Different, but not bad, by any means. My sister and I were pretty good kids. We really didn’t test boundaries. Dad’s word was law, and while that might seem harsh to some, we never questioned it. We knew how much he loved us and that everything he did was to keep us safe, so we went along with it.
There were rules we had that other families didn’t:
- You’re never allowed to put on make up in the car. (He saw more than one accident because of this.)
- You’re never allowed to get on a motorcycle with anyone but family. (He trusted NO ONE with his girls.)
- You’re never allowed to drive a convertible. (Again, too many accidents.)
- Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be home. Call if you’re going to be late. (So he would know when to start looking for us.)
- Always say you love someone when they leave. (You never know when it will be the last time you speak to someone.)
- We had a family password. If anyone came up to us and told us to go with them, we were to ask for the password. If they didn’t know, we were to run. (To keep any “bad guys” from getting us.)
- For years, we played a game in the car where we’d try to guess the make and model of cars around us. It took me until my 20’s to realize he was teaching us to be aware of our surroundings, and to look for identifying features so we would be prepared if something happened. I’m still able to guess the make and model of most cars, and it’s a great party trick with my friends now! (I know within minutes if there’s a strange car on my street, too.)
- We grew up with more gun-awareness than most kids. We knew what guns were from an early age, and the proper respect and caution they deserved. We also had family disaster and fire drills – which apparently most families don’t have. He just wanted us safe! (All drills were 100% safe, and both my parents knew what was going on. They were just to prep us kiddos for any emergencies.)
- When Dad says do something (like leave a restaurant), you DO IT IMMEDIATELY. No questions, no begging to stay. Just do exactly what he says. (He was good at spotting dangers before we were, obviously. He could see trouble coming, and wanted to make sure we were out of harm’s way.)
- Also, my sister and I are convinced that Liam Neeson took pointers from my dad in Taken. We never worried about being kidnapped or abducted – there was no question that Dad would find us!
When I was younger, he worked as a patrol officer and in the crime scene unit, so I was still able to tell people what he did. However, when I was a teenager (and my sister was a toddler), he worked with a few taskforces. We had to teach my sister from a young age to not tell anyone dad was a police officer, and that she couldn’t speak to him if we ran into him in public. It was tough for her. I was old enough to understand, but it took a while for her to get it.
PPW: What did you notice about your father’s job? OR Did you notice his schedule, long hours, less time, rescheduling of holidays?
Crystal: He worked all the time. Not only did he work his regular shifts, but he also worked as many extra jobs as he could to save up money. I knew from a young age that he didn’t have a “regular” job like some of my friend’s dads. I just took it in stride, though. My dad has always been one of my heroes, so I never thought anything different of it.
When I was young, we’d get to see him sometimes mid-shift to bring him dinner, or we’d see him at his extra jobs. When I was a teenager, he was working on taskforces and undercover sometimes, so we didn’t see him for days at a time. It was hard on him, us, and my parent’s marriage. Little did my mom know when she married him that she was signing up for a lifetime of single parenting whenever there was a disaster or emergency. Dad always had to work those. And, my little sister didn’t get to pull the “my dad’s a cop and he can arrest your dad” bratty move given the type of work he was doing. Haha!
PPW: Did your father or other members of your family share information about your father’s job? If yes, please elaborate.
Crystal: Yes and no. My dad worked some absolutely brutal cases and scenes. Before I get into any stories, let me say this first: My dad was an exceptional father. No matter how horrible his day was, and what awful things he saw, he NEVER ONCE brought that home. I have no idea how, but he always walked into our home smiling, and ready to play horsey or pretty, pretty princess, or whatever we wanted to do for hours on end. The man watched more Dirty Dancing (my sister’s and my favorite movie) than any man should ever have to endure! Now as an adult, thinking about what he had to deal with, I still have no idea how he did it. My sister and I never once doubted how much that man loved and cherished every moment he spent with us.
As kids, we knew Dad was a police officer, and we were told when his job duties changed (patrol to crime scene, etc.) but we really didn’t know specifics. We knew he sent the bad guys to jail. That he sometimes got hurt doing it. And that his job was very dangerous. As adults, we found out more about some of those bad stories, but not everything. He didn’t like to tell us too much, of course. And we respected that.
We’d hear funny stories from time to time, here are a few of my favorites:
- On one of his first calls as a rookie, some senior officers planted a fake skull in the ground. Then they gave Dad a crappy flashlight and told him to go look for “anything amiss.” Of course, they waited until he was right over the skull, bent down, trying to see what it was before they all yelled and surprised him!
- Dad was absolutely terrified of snakes. And everyone knew it. One time, another officer put a rubber snake in the console of my dad’s patrol car. Dad was driving about 35 on the freeway ramp when he saw it. What does he do? Opens the door and bails out of the car. His partner saw my dad bail out and he bailed too! He said he figured if it was bad enough to make my dad jump out of a moving car, he didn’t want any part of it. The other officers (who put the rubber snake in the car) had to go chase down the now-empty and still moving patrol car before it went into a ditch.
- For years, there was an ongoing prank within the police department. Random mornings, one officer would turn their mic on, and a rooster would crow. Never gave a call sign, never spoke, but there was that rooster crow at 5 in the morning. Many of the officers talked about it, and wondered how the unknown cop was able to get a rooster to crow into a walkie talkie so regularly. No one knew that it was my dad. And I don’t mean, he got the rooster to crow – I mean he could crow EXACTLY like a rooster!
A few heart-warming stories:
- On super cold nights, Dad would “arrest” the homeless. He’d go to where ever they were and ask them if they’d like to go to jail. That way they’d get a good meal, and they would have a warm place to sleep.
- Dad gave away more lunches than he ate. If he saw someone else who needed it, he never thought twice about giving them his last dollar.
- More than once, he played secret Santa to families he’d dealt with. If he saw they didn’t have enough money to buy presents for the kids, later that night their doorbell would ring. They’d open the door to find a lit Christmas tree, and presents wrapped and waiting. He never let them know he was the one who did it, either.
- He hated writing tickets, and wrote as few as possible. He said his job was to protect and serve the community, and that is what he’d rather spend his time doing.
PPW: What was your view of law enforcement growing up? View of law enforcement now?
Crystal: I 100% respect and love our law enforcement and first responder community. Both then, and now. These guys and girls get out there and do a dangerous, thankless job every day. They get spit on, yelled at, shot, and beaten by the very people they’re trying to protect. In today’s instant access society, there are a lot of armchair detectives who rush to judge officer-involved incidents. I am not one of them. I believe that law enforcement is there to protect me and serve my community, and I will do everything in my power to help them with that.
PPW: Do you have any special memories related to your father’s job in law enforcement?
Crystal: Well, they’re all special memories now. My dad was killed in a car accident last year. So, all of these stories and tales are very special to my mom, my sister, and me. At his memorial service, there were police officers who he hadn’t seen in 20 years – and they all came just to pay respect and tell us what a great man he was. After twenty years, they remembered his kindness, his humor, and his amazing spirit! I can only hope I leave a legacy like that!
PPW: If you could share a message with other children whose parents are in law enforcement, what would you say?
Crystal: When a person becomes a police officer, it doesn’t just impact that one person – their whole family must learn to adjust to this new life. You have a very special job. It’s not an easy one, but it’s very important. You are the child of a law enforcement officer, and you have to act a little differently sometimes. Sometimes, you’re not allowed to do the fun/cool things because they’re too dangerous. And sometimes, you can’t go to so-and-so’s house even though they’re throwing an awesome party. Your job as a LEO kid is to accept this, and be OK with it. One day, your parents will explain why these things are so important, and why keeping you safe is so important. Your parent is not just your parent. They’re also a hero!
PPW: Please share any other information that relates to you having a parent in law enforcement. (Feel free to discuss anything you would like, giving as much detail as you would like).
Crystal: Some LEO kids might not agree, but I’m glad I grew up as one. I have a healthy respect for law enforcement. I know how to behave during traffic stops. I knew my dad was putting his life on the line every day, and I admire him for doing that. I learned more about bravery and courage from him simply reporting to work everyday than I did from any comic book or movie. I had to keep my nose cleaner than most, but that’s actually a good thing, too! I have better situational awareness than most of my friends, even now. No matter what his job was, my sister and I had an amazing dad!!
I can’t thank Crystal enough for such a detailed look into her law enforcement life. Your father sounded like an absolutely amazing man and hero. Not to mention, hysterical! It truly helped me realize just what my girls may experience one day. I am so implementing the “password rule” in my house now!
Tell us: What is your favorite piece from Crystal’s interview?
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