The other day, one of my readers e-mailed me a tough question. The young officer stated that he was a faithful reader seeking some sage advice. He wanted my insights on how to balance "the job" with his pending fatherhood. This made me do some soul searching.
I do some things well and others average, but fatherhood was a toil for me. In looking back, I feel that I may have let my son down. I missed far too many baseball games, recitals, and days when I could have gone fishing with him.
Like most chasing the next promotion, loving the job more than anything and then seeking chiefdom, something may have gotten left out. I felt that the job was the most important element in the world. In my office, I have the Ernest Hemingway quote, "Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter" ("On the Blue Water," Esquire, April 1936), and from this I found solace.
I have tried to make it up to my son. He is in the military now (Hooah!) and I think he now understands, but…I still have my thoughts.
Daddy and the Cop Life
I told the young officer that he is going to have make tough decisions between fatherhood and work obligations. Yes, there will be a subpoena, mandated training, or something that you have no control over. Deal with it. If you are on shift work, you can get a nap and then go throw the ball; there is always more coffee later. You can pass up on an extra job. Is the extra cash more important than the last game of the season? Some decisions will be easy and others hard.
I took the easy road and put the job first; it was career and paychecks before anything else. Then I would buy some cool toy or game to try to make it up to my son, but it's never the same. Learn from me and make the right decisions.
My lad turned out fine despite my ineptness as a daddy and we have a good relationship. I think the most important thing I can tell you as a young dad in this career is make it clear that you are available to talk, be there at most of their most critical moments, and just "be there" when they need you. You can't buy a good kid; it is an investment in sweat equity from you.
So to my young reader, you are in for your most difficult but most rewarding job ever: fatherhood. There are no FTOs in this gig; just recall what your childhood was like, and say what a daddy would do if he was here. Life is not a dress rehearsal; you have got to do it right the first time, which is not always fair.
Give to your family what they need, not just a paycheck. One day you will look back at the holiday photos of your kid; all the gold shields in the world can't bring those days back. To my reader, you will do fine; be yourself.
Train to Win. Train to go home to those you love.