Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The night we played Bad Cop, Bad Cop.

     Like a lot of parents, we take our parenting advice from a variety of sources, friends, our own parents and other relatives, our personal experiences, and yes, even TV.  One of the more effective methods we have used is a variation of the classic "Good Cop, Bad Cop" that you see in most detective shows.  The idea is to have one parent be the belligerent, over the top, angry and unreasonable cop, and the other to be the sympathetic, caring, understanding, and cooperative cop.  We used this method for years, with me naturally gravitating to the bad cop role, and my wife naturally gravitating to the good cop role.  Like I said, we have used this successfully for years, but this story is about a time that we didn't.

     I was traveling and at dinner with a client when the call came.  It was my daughter Molly with "big news" that she wanted to share.  We were just finishing our meals and it didn't look like the client wanted to hang around for after dinner drinks, so I picked up the call and told Molly that I'd call her back, in a bit, when
Sometimes I think my kids look like this when they call me
reached my hotel.  It did go longer than expected, so it was probably an hour later that I called her back to listen to her big news.  I made sure to shut my laptop so that I could give her my undivided attention.  I'm not sure all my kids are good enough to do this for me, as frequently during conversations, they seem to be multi-tasking, but I digress, for this call, I was all ears.  She started out by telling me that she had secured a good job.  As the semester prior had ended, she was dealing with a lot of change. She was changing schools, majors, apartments, and to top it off her boyfriend was having surgery, so she got a little behind on the job searching.  It had been weighing heavily on her and she was frustrated that she wasn't working yet. I wasn't worried as her work ethic was never in question and I know she
interviews well.  So I wasn't surprised that she did hook up with a job so quickly, however, I was surprised at what she chose to characterize as a "good job".  She explained that she would be working with independent brain injured people for long hours each day.  She had to provide transportation for these people in her own car and she also could be sent anywhere in the Buffalo area.   The starting wage was near our state's minimum.  To top it off, since most of them were pretty independent, there wasn't a lot that she was allowed to do, and I know she had quit jobs earlier that didn't give her enough to do.  She went on with more description, but honestly I was already soured on this job.  She explained also how they hired her immediately, and she exclaimed "Most of the people that work there don't even have cars !", so she would be guaranteed a lot of work.  OY !  I waited patiently for her to finish, and I contemplated whether the timing was right for me to express my opinion, but in the end, I hoped that she could still decline the job, so I started to give it to her, both barrels.   I started by saying something like,  "It sounds less like a job and more that they are taking advantage of you", and it got worse after that.  I rebutted point
Nice job, Dad.
for point derisively, what she had gushed out to me so proud and passionately, only moments before.  I wouldn't have gone on as long as I did, if I had heard her crying on the other end, but I didn't hear her, that is, until the soft crying had become full blown sobbing.  I tried to recant, but she sobbed that she had to go, and hung up.  You can guess how I felt at that moment, you don't get into parenting, to make your children cry, but somehow there are times that you find yourself in exactly that position.  It was late, so I went to bed, and figured I would bring her Mom into the mix, the first thing in the am.  My daughter was going to need the good cop.

     The next morning, I awoke early, and dialed my wife to confess my sin.  I launched right into my tale of making our daughter cry, and when I finished, there was some silence on the other end, and then "Oh Dear".
My wife went on to explain that she had talked to our daughter, earlier in the evening, and her reaction had been almost equal to mine.  She had not been happy about the job either, immediately recognizing the perils in it, and had vehemently expressed her opinion to our daughter, as well.  So much for Good Cop, Bad Cop, this time it was Bad Cop, Bad Cop.  In my defense, I was unaware that it was my turn to play Good Cop, that call comes so infrequently in my house. We commiserated for a while discussing possible remedies, but if there is one thing we know about our girl, it's that it's tough to tell her things and that she usually has to discover them for herself.  The communication from her was short and pointed for a while after that, but finally she started to tell us about her job.  This time, we just shut up and listened.  We both still felt that it was a bad fit for her, but we stopped trying to interject our opinions, it's her life and her choice after all.  We suffered in silence for a few months, but have to admit we were elated when she called one day to tell us, she was leaving that job.  She had good cause, and we agreed, and
Not my girl, but like her. 
 we were even more excited when she called us a week later to tell us about a better job that she had.  This time it was working at an assisted living facility where she would be helping the residents in their daily tasks.  There was plenty to do, and the pay was better too.  In fact, she is already up for a promotion, which again does not surprise either her Mom or me.  We had dinner in Buffalo as a family last weekend, and related our side of this tale to her.  I don't think she'll mind me sharing it, as she thought it was pretty funny.  So did I, but I have an odd sense of humor, we Bad Cops are like that,  just ask my wife. 




cdyarger said...

I don't think I was quite as bad of a "bad cop" as you were, but I was definitely not supportive!! There is a fine line between supporting your children and being honest with them. I think our children appreciate the fact that we love them enough to be honest, even when it hurts! Love you dear daughter!! Good blog honey!

Daphne Mays said...

I think one of the best things our kids can learn from us is that we can admit when we mess up. Sounds like this is one of those relatively tame ones! Sometimes our kids even get honest with us and point out something that wasn't quite right. That too is a beautiful thing!

Meyer and McGuire said...

Bill, I always enjoy your blogs because they always ring true and real, essential qualities of good writing. Congratulations on another great job!