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How To Love Your Cop
How To Love Your Cop

An LEOW Thanksgiving

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
To my mother’s house we go
A well-worn road
With kids in tow
To spend another holiday alone.

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
To mother’s questioning eyes!
Oh, LE Wifey dear,
Why isn’t he here?
For Thanksgiving dinner here lies!

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
Oh, how I miss him so!
I dab my eyes
And blow my nose
Then pretend, so no one knows.

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
We pull up in the noontime sun.
We spent some time
This morning sublime
Before he put on his badge and his gun.

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
When my family sees us arrive
They come out
With a crazy shout
Welcome, how was your drive?

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
I inhale the baking turkey scent
I miss him so
But he had to go
On duty he must Thanksgiving spend.

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
And then the dumb questions start
Where is he?
Again on duty?
Are you okay with holidays apart?

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
The kids and I make do.
They run and play
With cousins all day
Yet we miss him the whole day through.

Over the freeway and into the ‘hood
He’ll keep watch over the land
While the people eat
He’ll cover his beat
So that everyone gets home as planned.

Over the freeway and into the neighborhood
We stuffed ourselves beyond right
Though it caught my eye
I declined the pie
But packed up two pieces for tonight.

Over the freeway and back to our home
I bathe the kids and put them to bed.
I hope he’s all right,
Coming home tonight
I’ll wait up for him, reading instead.

Over the freeway and back to our home
He shuffles in, his long day finally done.
I sigh with relief,
Another day of belief,
That he’ll be home before the next sun.

Into the kitchen and into my arms
I greet him with a happy kiss.
Like leather he smells
And excitedly he tells
Of a pursuit and an arrest – with bliss!

Into the pie with some whip on the top
He recants his Thanksgiving Day.
Rolling Code 3
Then tore up his knee,
Another uniform we will have to pay.

He showers, kisses kids, then heads for bed,
My eyes twinkle with pride
I cannot deny
That I love my guy
I’m his life partner, standing beside.

Happy Thanksgiving, LEO Families!

November 27th, 2013

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Two Minutes with Gilmartin

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Dr. Kevin Gilmartin’s training on Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement. It was my first time listening to him teach in person.

I was taken in with the way he presented the parts of police officers others rarely see: the biological and chemical reactions to what they are trained to do, the responses that affect their bodies short and long term, their attitudes and decisions toward the job, and their relationships at home. It was excellent information.

Here are some of my highlighted notes:

*Most officers get 4-6 hours of sleep a night, two hours less than they need.
*Sleep deprivation is a cancer risk.
*Cops are experts on the shit of life. We need to train officers to be professional cynics, not half-assed cynics who can’t turn it off.
*Cynicism is distrust of human nature and motives.
*Normal people make decisions based on probability. Cops make decisions based on possibility.
*Trust to an officer is naïve risk-taking.
*Cops die 19 years earlier than they should – because of the hypervigilance rollercoaster and the long-term affects it has on their bodies.
*We lose 484 officers a year to suicide.
*Firemen face risk for small portions of their shifts. Cops face potential risk their entire shift.
*Fire is a team-based trust profession. Policing is an individual-based distrust profession.
*Law enforcement culture doesn’t talk about the affects of carbohydrates or low levels of cortisol, but then we joke about donuts and bury them early.
*The hypervigilance rollercoaster produces cops that are emotionally over-invested at work, and emotionally under-invested at home.
*To break the cycle of the rollercoaster, the officer needs to get off his ass, exercise a half hour a day, eat right, and intentionally invest in other roles of his life.

Then, at lunchtime, I took the opportunity to talk with Dr. Gilmartin. The exchange was maybe two minutes.

But it rocked my world.

Let me back up a bit. When I spoke in Canmore, Alberta a month ago, one of the gals presented information from Gilmartin’s book. She gave a great summary of hypervigilance, which is the biological process a peace officer undergoes while on duty, which heightens their awareness, thinking abilities, and quick response to anything that comes up. She explained that once the shift is over, their bodies need to recover, which means off-duty, their bodies go into a exact opposite/depression-like state to offset the affects of the body while in hypervigilance (Gilmartin calls this the Hypervigilance Biological Rollercoaster.) After her presentation, the LEOWs had several questions, mainly about how to explain and train their children to understand and accept this phenomena. I told them I would see Dr. Gilmartin in November, and would ask him exactly that.

I approached Gilmartin, armed with my innocent question. His response stopped me in my heels.

“Kids should not even be aware of hypervigilance,” He asserted. He then shifted and sort of sighed, “Spouses can be the biggest enablers…”

I didn’t hear anything after that.

Enablers?

There was, by then, a crowd that had gathered. I saw the look on the gal’s face next to me. It was a wince. I felt my insides turn, so I muttered something about thanks and excused myself. Then, for the next three hours of traffic-laden processing and a tearful conversation with Chief, I realized something.

I’d used hypervigilance as an excuse for some of the bad habits in our home.

And not only was I not engaged in the fight against hypervigilance, I’d actually resigned myself to it, and joined in with both feet.

For quite some time now.

And I’ve been believing, talking about and teaching that we need to understand who our officers are, how the job affects them, and then deal with it. I’ve not understood the entire picture.

I need to understand so that I can not just deal with it, or make excuses for it, but rather join in on the solutions. I am the heart of my home, and my husband’s best friend. I’ve declared I’m his backup at home – and the biological effects of hypervigilance take place at home. Gilmartin didn’t write his book so that we could just understand it and let it take its course. Gilmartin wrote his book so that we could understand it, and join in the FIGHT to CHANGE it.

My husband’s health – physically, emotionally, and relationally – depends on it.

His actual LIFE depends on it.

He has his brothers and sisters on duty that have his back should something go crazy. But at home, there are still dangers that lurk within his very body that threaten his life.

Is there any more important backup than that?

So, as his backup at home:

I can fix healthy meals to help my officer to FIGHT against the affects on his weight…

I can leave Oreos and Doritos and Jack Daniels on the shelf at the store…

I can exercise with my officer so that he swings back into a normal level…

I can make sure he gets the sleep he needs…

I can motivate (without nagging) my officer to turn off the computer/TV to wrestle with the kids, or go to church, or coach his son’s baseball team, or to get out in the yard (together) and make it pretty again…

I can live and operate with the realization that my officer is a cop, but that is not the only thing he is. He is a husband, a father, a son, a coach, a friend, a board member, an outdoorsman, and he has much to offer our family, and our community…

So that his kids will never know about hypervigilance.

November 22nd, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops-Dads and their kids

Dads Need Their Kids

When Brent became a highway patrolman, I was the one who comforted him when he came home. But after we started having children, I noticed a little shift. It seemed to me that he was more excited to see them than me when he came home. I used to get a little jealous, but then I decided to grow up.

I’ve come to understand that my husband needs and feeds off of his kids. He needs their optimism. He needs their innocence. He sees in them that there is good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for. I know that may sound a little dramatic, but it’s true. He may not even realize it. But coming home and holding his baby girl or wrestling on the floor with his boys—my husband needs this. Chances are so does yours.

Almost every day, year after year, there has been a wrestling session at our home. It started when our oldest daughter could crawl. Brent tackled her—lovingly, of course—and she would laugh until her belly hurt. It’s continued through the years, and now we have to clear a large space, as the legs and arms are much longer, but the laughter still rings through the halls. I call it wrestle therapy, and Brent needs it just as much as the kids.

But I’ve always been the stick in the mud. I’m the one who’s moving the vase or scolding when it gets too rough. And they laugh at me and sometimes pull me in against my will. Usually it ends with my stomach aching because I can’t stop laughing. So, let them wrestle. Let them throw footballs (soft ones) in at least one room of the house. Let them cuddle past bedtime. It is good for our husbands’ souls, and it helps to balance out the harder parts of his job. The kids love it too.

 

On the Other Hand…

There are other seasons in a law enforcement career that aren’t so great for kids. Sometimes your husband will need some quiet, alone time. When he’s had a really bad day, he might not be able to handle the chaos that kids create. Several of my law enforcement friends have told me that they have had to take the kids somewhere else or send their husbands to the gym. Being quick to anger, irritable, or just in his own little world is a reality at some point. Unfortunately this can be really hurtful to the children who don’t understand.

That’s where we come in. Our husbands need a little space, exercise, time, or sleep to get back on track. We can create room for this, depending on our creativity and our attitudes. If we’re full of resentment, our kids will pick up on it and be resentful. If we are patient, our kids will try to be patient. If we give him a little room for moods, it won’t be so traumatic for the kids. Then, when he’s calmed down a bit, you and the kids can engage him in the family goings on.

It’s important to communicate to your kids, no matter what the age, what is going on. For little ones you can tell them that Daddy’s had a bad day, and he needs some time to deal with it. For older kids you can give a little more detail, as appropriate. But the attitude is support and love, not condemnation. We all have moods from time to time, and home is the best place to work through them, especially if we give each other the space to do it.

November 3rd, 2013

Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder

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