Christmas time is my absolute favorite time of year. The lights, the music, the tree, and family, family, family. Before becoming a police spouse I never had to worry about what Christmas would look like, every year looked the same as the last. Now, I definitely cannot say the same thing. Some years we are lucky, and my husband doesn’t work at all the 24th or 25th of December, other years we barely see him and must carve out time in between shifts and sleeping.
I know the question has been raised before in Facebook threads, spouses with young kids trying to get a feel for what more experienced families may do come Christmas time with a shift working spouse, ideas for how to explain Santa on a different day or how not to feel blue when you are on your own (with or without kids) come Christmas Day.
As always, I am touched by the community of police spouses we have created and just knew that tapping that awesome community to share their stories would yield some great results to share.
Traditions are big in our house. I always plan a day in December when everyone will be home so that we can decorate the tree together. After my husband spends hours making sure the tree is straight and won’t fall over (more than once), I put the lights on. Then we sit back with apple cider and watch the kids put the ornaments on.
In one family’s house they also have numerous traditions. “We always put the tree up as a family, and wait until Dad is off shift so he can be there as well. Every year we buy personalized Christmas Ornaments for each other and our kids, with the year on them. This way we can see the different ornaments we got each year. Our tree is becoming very full with these lovely keepsakes.”
One woman submitted her family’s traditions as well as their plans for this year based on her spouse’s shift.
Celebrating the holidays in our household is a careful balancing act between shift work, magical Christmas moments, preparing for the unexpected, and lowered expectations. Our children are young and still love the idea of Santa. We keep the magic of Christmas alive by decorating the house together as a family, attending work and community holiday events, reading Christmas books and watching every family holiday movie. On Christmas Eve, our kids help make cookies for Santa and set a place at the table for his snack. In our yard, they sprinkle "reindeer food" made of glitter and oatmeal. We keep the Christmas lights on in the backyard, so the kids can enjoy them. The lights double as a security feature for any would-be thieves considering a holiday B&E.
This year, Christmas Day will be celebrated early on the 25th, with stockings, presents under the tree and a big brunch. Naps are scheduled for the afternoon and our officer will head into work for the first night shift of his set. The kids and I will have lots of time to eat leftovers, play with the new toys and maybe even watch a movie, or two after my spouse has left for work. We are grateful for the time together on that day.
Our Boxing Day dinner plans are the "wild card" event of our holidays. It is rarely the same parent from our household that attends with the kids each year. We meet with friends, both new and old, for a grand, traditional holiday meal. What makes it so adventurous is the events that seem to surround this day. In the past four years, we have endured this meal in various stages of familial disarray. The first time we attended with a 7-day old infant and with our two-year-old twins. There were four other children present, including another set of toddler twins. It was pure chaos and exhaustion. The next year we contracted a wicked stomach flu from one of the guests and didn't leave our own house for days. The year after was marred by a gall-stone attack, which in retrospect, was a massive hint that day-surgery was on the horizon in the coming months. I'm a little terrified of what will happen this year, but with a mix of 22 adults and small children in attendance, something unexpected and memorable is bound to happen.
Our Christmas decor and our yearly family photo will never compare to the glamourous events advertised on the social media accounts of our friends and family. But what we lack in tradition, we make up for with love, warmth, humour and gratitude. Most importantly, we always make room for anyone who needs a safe place to rest for the holidays. Being a law enforcement family has its moments- and we are grateful for every one of them.
Days in Lieu
Somehow, we have lucked out in the last 5 years and been able to come up with some combination of mornings or evenings where my husband can join us. His sergeants have always been so good at allowing him to come down south for an hour on Christmas Eve, so he doesn’t miss out on the festivities at my in-laws with us even if he is on nights.
This family has it all figured out...
“We have Christmas morning for the kids the first morning that our officer is officially off (with no possibility of OT!) I made an advent calendar with extra days on it for years we go past the 25th.” That is an ingenious idea!!
Christmas morning (whenever it may be) at the this house sounds like a blast. “Our Christmas day is whatever day Dad is fully off! Might be a day or two early or late, depending on how the schedule goes (as we all know!). My husband is always the most excited and can’t hardly contain himself. He wakes up the kids, the dogs, calls family...Christmas for us usually starts at 4:30 am! After we open all the presents, we eat a huge breakfast, put on Christmas movies and fall asleep on the couch together.”
Christmas is quite often for making memories with families and one woman shared her favorite one.
We have been very blessed in my husbands 8-year career with the CPS that we have been able to spend at least a portion of Christmas day as a family. On this note, my favourite memory would have to be the year that he was working nights. He came home early in the morning, on Christmas day, and we all got up and opened presents together. After watching our son at the time enjoy his presents for a little bit my husband went to bed. It was just the three of us at that time and it was possibly the most relaxing Christmas, while he was sleeping off night shift, I got some great 1-on-1 time with our son, and got to assemble a delicious Goose dinner in a calm quiet setting. When the hubby got up it was an easy Christmas dinner and then off he went again. There was a definite blessing in the quiet peacefulness that day and although the hubby was not able to enjoy all of Christmas with us, I am happy that we were still able to enjoy the time we did have together.
This Family Christmas Story sounds like the best of Christmas surprises and I am sure a few of us (I know we have) have been visited by flashing lights by a working spouse on Christmas. Sure leaves the neighbours wondering what family gatherings are like at our house.
On Christmas Eve 2016, Daddy was working his second Christmas, and wouldn't be able to join us for Christmas dinner at Granny's house. We all ate turkey together around 5pm and enjoyed our time, but of course missed Daddy's presence very much.
Then around 6pm someone saw red and blue lights flashing outside the house, and a couple moments later the doorbell rang--and standing there at the door was handsome, wonderful Daddy--on Granny's doorstep--a Christmas surprise! My Mom (Granny) screamed, 'Gabe, you're here!!' and our 5 and 3-year olds came running into the room--probably the very first time they'd leave a show while still playing-- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer-- and exclaimed, 'Daddy!!!' as they jumped toward him. I joined the already formed crowd of extended family members with my one-year old baby in my arms, and brimmed with pride at this fantastic surprise.
My husband, Gabe, and his partner, Joel, had surely taken at least thirty minutes to drive across the city from District 3 to Woodbine, just to say hello and turn back to help the team with the night's work. But no, they informed us that they were going to get to stay and eat dinner with us all! Their Sergeant, the wonderful Dave Element, had told them to go have turkey dinner and come back when they were done.
Gideon and Olivia, our two oldest, were jumping up and down, excited to tell Daddy about the movie they were watching with their cousin, Audrey, and about all the fun he'd missed while working.
I stood there and felt so thankful for an organization that would encourage family to spend some time together, even if only for a short visit, so that Christmas surprises like these could happen on special holidays. My kids still talk about that surprise and I know that it'll be something they will always remember.
Not all Christmas memories are made up picture-perfect events and as life happens whether we want it to or not some Christmases can be stressful and even difficult. A police wife submitted her story with the preface that it may not be “the kind of story” we were looking for. I am more than happy to share her story with you as I think it an incredible example of the bond in our “blue” family.
One of the hardest Christmas' I have ever had was in 2013 when my husband was in a coma for the month of December and Christmas. The police went above and beyond to take care of me and my family. From shovelling our walks everyday, to meals, to driving me to the hospital, to buying us Christmas presents, and putting a fundraiser on for our family.
The police showed up with tons of presents all wrapped for my 4 children so that we could have a Christmas. We had more presents under the tree that year and it was a great distraction for my kids to not have their father be a part of that year.
I will be forever grateful to the police and how they took care of our family that year.
Christmas is a time for celebrating family and although her husband wasn’t with them that year they were loved and cared for by his colleagues, friends and organization. I am grateful and honored to be a part of a family that would care for another in that way.
I hope that all who read this have a wonderful holiday season with your families and that even if your spouse must work some version of the holiday that you are able to make time for celebrating in what ever way rings true for you.