This one’s for you.
Your daddy is a lot of things. He is a Frozen watching couch cuddler. He is a delicious breakfast maker. He is a guitar playing, wood work making, lawn mowing, trampoline jumping kind of guy. All day he is your daddy. It is as evening sets in and we finish our dinner that his other task begins. The one where he straps on a bullet proof vest, laces his boots, and puts on a badge that in some ways seems more like a target these days than anything else.
In recent months, and especially this last week, I have woken one too many times to news that men who do what your daddy does didn’t get to come home anymore. Not only that but I have seen videos and read many things that reflect opinions from all sorts of people on who your daddy and the men and women he works with are, what their morals are or are not, and what exactly it is they do when out on the streets while many sleep, while many celebrate holidays with their families, and while many call on them for help in times of need. All too soon I know you will be of an age to see these same stories and read the opinions of others. You will openly and occasionally harshly learn that to some your daddy may be a hero and to others he will always be seen as the villain.
It would be a lie to tell you that every single man or woman who places a badge on their chest and a hat on their head and calls themselves a police officer hits the streets for all the right reasons. It would be even more of a lie to let you believe that the few who disrespect the honor of wearing that badge, even start to represent the majority. I have decided that before the world tries to tell you who they think your father is – based on the profession he so loyally serves, I wanted to clear a few things up for you on who I know him to be.
Your father cares for the sick and injured. When I came home from the hospital with Anniston the whole house was falling ill. Even your Nana (a retired police officer herself) who had so diligently watched over you while I was in the hospital, was ill. Your dad didn’t blink an eye as he flew into action. Washing bedding, cleaning up things I’m glad I didn’t even have to see, preparing meals, and when the illness struck me staying up to care for the baby and meeting my every demand. It’s the same thing he does at work when he gets calls to medical emergencies – from heart attacks to overdoses. He provides care, he stabilizes, he arranges help for people he has often never met before and may likely never see again.
Your father is fair and just. He knows how to settle an argument between you three girls faster than I ever could. He never takes more than his due from anything. He shares everything he has with anyone who asks and never expects a thing in return. It’s what allows him to help calm a domestic disturbance, a fight at the local school, and talk down a situation headed towards dangerous escalation.
Your father is dedicated. Your dad is the kind of guy who can come off of a 12 hour night shift and go straight to a soccer game, a doctor’s appointment, or whatever other thing you need. It is this dedication that makes him go into work on Holidays and Birthdays and times where we know he would love to be home, but he also knows that his community needs someone on the ready to serve. You won’t hear him complain when his phone rings at 3 am on his one night off to come in and help out at work and you won’t see anything but a smile from him when he gets off work at 2 am and has to drive us straight to the hospital to have a baby and at some point realizes he hasn’t slept in well over 24 hours or as he watches you blow out your birthday candles instead of sleeping. He is dedicated to our family and his community in a way few could ever be.
Your father is a provider of comfort. There is a reason you run to your dad when you get a scrape on your knee or your favorite toy gets broken. It’s because you know his arms will open wide and pull you into a warm embrace and somehow convince you that everything will be just fine. I know because he has done that for me more than once. That’s why your father has put himself in a position to be the one to deliver news after tragic accidents and other less than ideal situations. He tries to comfort even strangers in their time of greatest need because that’s what his job calls for and it’s what he knows how to do.
Your father is a police officer. It means that each night he walks out the door not knowing what his future holds. It means that he is ready and willing to run into a harmful situation and try to bring about peace. It means that he will put others’ lives before his own if the need should arise. It means that he will make enemies, because sometimes the right thing to do isn’t always the popular one. It means he will see things that would break our heart, that do break his, and he will some how piece it back together for us. It means he will worry about the child he had to drive to the homeless shelter and admit he wished he could just bring them home to us where love abounds. It will mean he spends time thinking of ways to encourage the habitual alcoholic or drug abuser to get help and find resources to break the cycle they feel stuck in because the joy in his job doesn’t come in arresting a human when crimes are committed, it comes in seeing someone go from destructive decisions to a bountiful life. It means that there is always a chance he could be targeted for doing a job that many aren’t willing to do themselves. It means one day he could walk out the door and not get to walk back in. Still, if I know one thing about your father it is that his heart and soul couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
If you only remember one thing from this letter I want you to remember that your father, regardless of what anyone else may say or assume, is one of the good ones, the best ones. He protects and he serves, he is a police officer but more than anything else he is your Daddy and the reason he puts on that badge every day is so that the four of us and other families just like ours can sleep in peace each night knowing help is just a phone call away.
(I was blessed to be raised by a police woman who exemplifies the same qualities listed here and then some. I am honored by and often challenged by my role as a police wife and mother to three little LEO kids. My heart goes out to those who have paid the ultimate price in this calling, this career, this way of life and those who have had to make tough decisions in their course of work and live with daily back lash as a result. Bless you!)