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5 holiday traditions every police household will understand

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, don’t forget to reach out to police officers who may need some holiday cheer


Being prepared to roll with the gut punch of the season helps keep things merry and bright for police officers and their families.


By Chief David Oliver

If you’re sharing this life with a police spouse, you’ve already become well-versed in compromise and flexibility. The following holiday scenarios seem to be a given for many police households. Being prepared to roll with the gut punch of the season helps keep things merry and bright.

1. Holiday pay will save the day...well, maybe

For those who are privy to it, nothing stirs the emotions quite like a 12-hour shift that pays right for standing guard on Black Friday. The conversation is typically broached by my genius police spouse, two days before payday on the week before Thanksgiving, when I’m trying to decide if Hamburger Helper can indeed, be shaped like a turkey. Yes, dear, take the holiday pay. Even I can deal with a house full of tryptophan-laden, snoring uncles for an extra $450.

2. The judgmental family member

Seems like there’s at least one in every police family. No matter how many years of holidays, anniversary parties, weddings and family reunions have passed, someone will still be there each and every year to let the entire family know what a disappointment your police spouse is for choosing the job over the family. Yes, the minimal holiday pay trumps your opinion, each and every holiday.

3. Opening up the holiday police buffet

If you live in a city in which your police spouse serves, and he or she signed up for that holiday pay job, chances are there are extra holiday shifts as well. It seems it happens about the time that holiday pay hits the bank, that I’ve started feeling more sympathy for my hardworking police spouse out there in the cold – and less pity for myself being home alone, wrangling bored children like goats in sledding gear on Christmas break. This is the time you find yourself making enough chili and cornbread to feed a small army of hungry police officers, and you open your doors to every hungry officer within radio distance. Between my own and others, I typically get my driveway shoveled daily as well. This usually leads to baking enough cookies for my police spouse to hand out for days. It’s win, win and feel good, holiday magic at work.

4. Coping during the holiday frenzy

The only thing that trumps the wild factor of a full moon in the heat of summer is a blustery night in the dead of winter. This is that week-long stretch of treacherous road conditions where even the most seasoned police spouse is praying for his or her loved one to come home safely during the entire shift, which is inevitably four to six hours longer than normal. This is always the same week when every citizen feels they must risk life and limb to get to Starbucks and Target – with zero regard for the weather reports pleading with everyone to stay home unless it’s an absolute emergency. The image in your head is your police spouse in the middle of an ice rink full of drunk shoppers on a mission to get past the pretty flashing lights to the early-bird sale. Just try to occupy your time until they return home safely.

5. Paying it forward during the holidays

For most of us, holidays are no exception in revealing the heart of our police spouses. Holidays just seem to bring those less fortunate to the forefront of our minds. I’ve yet to see a holiday go by in which my police spouse didn’t return from shift telling me about a family that could use a little help. And it never fails that it’s also when we’re a few dollars from being overdrawn. Whether it’s gifts, coats, or food, somehow we find a way to make it work. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Nothing makes me appreciate what we have more than my police spouse having the compassion to want to help those who have less.

And here we are again, smack in the middle of the commercialized season of spending, the season of depression and the season of hardship for so many without funds or family. It’s easy to get caught up in the madness and mayhem. It’s also a great time to remember why our police spouses are out there, and why we’re all so blessed when they make it home.

There are many blue families who are forever without their police spouses during every holiday. There are also many police officers out there without family close by. In the hustle and bustle of it all, don’t forget to reach out to those who may need a little holiday cheer. My door is always open.

This article, originally published 4/11/2015, has been updated with current information.

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.
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