10 things found at a police family’s dinner table
First of all, what’s this police family dinner table you speak of?
First of all, what’s this police family dinner table you speak of? I suppose a more accurate title for this piece would be, “If there was such a thing as a police family dinner table."
The title implies something nearly impossible on any regular basis for law enforcement families due to conflicting schedules, late shifts, children’s activities and the occasional homicide – otherwise known as the common family meal snatcher among police families.
In a picture-perfect world, I suppose the dinner table would look like one of those heartwarming commercials for the perfect new chicken seasoning. The aroma of herbs and spices remind us of Grandma while the entire family bonds over broccoli and cheerfully shares the highlights of their day. However, in a Blue family, reality goes a little more something like this…
1. Duty Belt and Salad Tongs
“Honey, can you move your duty belt so I can set the table?” I’ve heard from many a police spouse who has incorporated the duty belt into the dining room decor, resigned to its place of rest and with no complaints as the mere presence of the duty belt at home means the opportunity for a meal together.
We’re missing the boat on this invention. One of us should come up with a dining room table that incorporates its own warming drawer or microwave. Now THAT’s something that would get some good use for all those missed meals and reheated attempts at together time after a late shift meth head stole your opportunity. Shark tank LEOs, get on that.
3. The Ever-Present Third Wheel, AKA the Radio.
Ah, yes…there she is. The little chatterbox that always has something to say. This is most often the case for those whose LEO lives in their own district and actually can take their lunch break at home (which is really dinner, and usually between 10 p.m. and midnight). You might get to enjoy that meal together, but the radio and the head-tilt will be joining you. Of course, you overlook that little annoyance as those few moments of family time makes up for it. Many a lasting memory has been made by a midnight lunch hour and LEO kids staying awake just to see their hero.
4. A Parking Lot
This is the LEO family dinner table so many of us are familiar with. Mom/dad on duty, kids being shuffled from one ball field to the next, parent or grandparents perfecting the madness of being in three places at once and somehow, someway when that text, “Have five minutes to meet me at our spot?” comes, we make it happen. Hectic schedules make way for the memories so many of our families have made over an order of fries and a few minutes of together time, regardless of circumstance.
5. The LEO's Cell Phone
When the 411 of department happenings is coming down the pike, the sheepdogs will converse amongst themselves while stating things such as, “Okay man, the wifey is giving me the evil eye, I’ll call you back as soon as I eat." Personally, if I get the mention, I typically overlook the rest. He’s home, he’s eating, he’s happy and safe for the moment. No deep conversation is going to be had with the aforementioned third wheel and head-tilt anyway, so it’s all good.
6. A Chair Facing the Door
If you ever enjoy a meal out with your LEO, you know this one as LEO Restaurant Eating No. 101. Backing into the parking space, seating facing the door, checking out the wait staff for people previously arrested and a constant set of eyes perusing the surroundings will be joining you for your meal. It’s not paranoia when you can no longer count the number of LEOs ambushed and killed while on their lunch breaks on just two hands.
7. Dead Juice Details
This one is a variable and takes some adjustment in the beginning unless you’re one of the many joint first responder families. For those couples, the conversations come naturally with not one eye blinked over dead body juice talk alongside, “Pass the butter." However, for many of us, we’ve had to adapt to LEO dinner table talk. Note to self, don’t ask, “How was your day?” if you’re not prepared to listen. Likewise, don’t allow your spaghetti sauce being mopped up off your plate by your garlic bread to cause sudden ghastly visuals in your mind.
8. Other LEOs
Perhaps it’s the holidays, or a manhunt involving multiple agencies. It could be during National Police Week or on National Thank a Police Officer Day. It could be one of those three-day weekends in the summer that always come with DUI enforcement, mandatory OT and no hope of seeing the family BBQ picnic due to long shifts. Many times it’s the worst of times in which we come together for each other. Whatever the situation – if there are hungry LEOs, there will be LEO spouses bringing on the feast for the masses. It’s what we do. And there will be thin blue line cupcakes, no doubt about it.
Many LEO families go weeks, even months without being able to sit down together as a family. More often than not, LEO children will eat with one of their parents while the other is working. Bedtimes, school nights, sports and shift work make dinner table time nearly impossible. There are some great advantages to the cell phone and FaceTime is one of them. Nothing puts a smile on the faces of LEO kids like that visual connection when the real deal just isn’t an option.
10. A Sigh of Relief With a Side of Perspective
Granted, we’re not the typical family when it comes to the dinner table. One thing is certain, regardless of how we make it work, where or what time dinner takes place when dinner together does happen, it eases the soul. We have that moment of peace, and as LEO families we are constantly aware of how significant “just dinner” really is.
This article, originally published 03/20/2015, has been updated.