When people picture life of police wives, I feel like they either get the vision of the proud wife beaming over her decorated husband or maybe the darker picture of the weeping wife receiving her consolation flag. Truth is, there are a lot of quirks just in the day-to-day.
For example, when my husband and I do go on the occasional date- which is an extreme rarity, we’ve been out twice since Vi was born nearly 13 months ago- I know the drill without even talking about it. We try to date in towns well away from my husband’s district. There’s nothing more awkward than having a waiter/waitress or cook recognize your husband as the officer that has arrested them. I also know that my back will always be to the door, officers pick their seats at tables and booths based on the view of the door and being able to spot everyone who walks in. Incidentally this also means we never miss a “hello” from Brad’s coworkers and friends as they spot us as soon as we enter a diner and vice versa.
Being the local Trooper’s wife means that when people ask what my husband does for a living I usually try to answer simply with “the state”. When people do find out my husband is in law enforcement they start asking questions that are kind of uncomfortable. “Where do you live?”, “Does he work nights?”, “Does he have a partner?”
I understand that there are innocent reasons to ask. They want to know where we live because they assume he will patrol more close to his home and they want to make sure to avoid speeding in that area perhaps. They want to know time of day he works much for the same reason and so they know that if they get pulled over they can try the whole “hey! I know your wife from the school!” bit in an attempt to get out of tickets. They probably want to know about if there’s a partner just out of curiosity due to the sparseness of the area- perhaps because of tax dollars too. But we have had awful experiences in the past with ill willed people somehow finding out where we live. We’ve had our tires slashed, harassment, people coming to our door to ask my husband to get their confiscated guns back, as well as an attempted home invasion. So no, I’m not going to tell you specifically where I live no matter how nice you seem. I don’t know who you are related to or who you talk to that word could spread from. That same reasoning goes for why I won’t tell you my husband’s schedule (even though he’s on a rotating schedule so good luck figuring out his comings and goings as I barely can keep track myself). And as to if he has a partner, officers have been ambushed in the past. I will never say how many officers each department in the area has on at what times. It’s also why I won’t say where my husband is patrolling at any given moment.
On the days when Brad comes home early in the day, it’s not uncommon for the kids to wait in front of the glass door, eagerly awaiting papa’s arrival. But, if anyone besides our neighbors are driving on our road at the same time as Brad coming home, he will drive by our home and circle back around. Doing this means less random strangers knows a trooper lives here. It also means two excited kids shrieking “Papa!” as the squad approaches our driveway and then heavily sighing as they watch him drive past.
Being a police wife means always trying to be on your best behavior. If I’m a mess at the local grocery store, it’s not a stressed out mom of two who’s having a bad day. No, in our small town I am “the Trooper’s wife“. My attitude and words are amplified here and it all directly reflects back onto my husband and his badge. This is the same reason why I drive like the model citizen, if I happen to get pulled over people want to know if I got a ticket or not as a measure of equality. A warning means I was favored. If I’m not pulled over at all when doing wrong it means I must be favored as well. So I drive like I’m back in the hot seat with a driving instructor and don’t push the limits, even as others pass me by. For the record: it’s been close to a decade since I have been pulled over, well before I married an officer.
As for discipline, we are rather strict with our kids. For the same reason listed above, people watch when you are the trooper’s immediate family: trooper’s wife and trooper’s children. If Marshall and a few of his friends pull teenage shenanigans, years from now, it will likely be Marshall who will take the brunt of the spotlight. “Trooper’s son eggs house” gives people a bit more pleasure then just “teen boys egg house”. It makes some people happy to see an officer’s child in trouble because “they must not be in that much control at home” or some other reason relating back to broken authority. When Marshall was two, he was having a typical terrible two’s tantrum and a person close to us commented “Cop’s kids are always the worst, you watch.” Marshall was having a common toddler moment that we were trying to handle, but it wasn’t a common toddler moment in this person’s eyes. No, it was a “cop’s kid” misbehaving, even at two years old.
This is also the reason my husband has made it painfully clear to extended family and friends as to why he doesn’t want to be name dropped if they are pulled over. You speed, you get ticketed. Don’t use his name and title to get out of trouble you put yourself in. It reflects badly on him and reeks of impropriety. Fun fact: during the hiring process, Brad had to take a lie detector test, they asked if he observed his own mother speeding and driving recklessly if he would ticket her. Without hesitation he said he would and the lie detector said he was being truthful (and he was). He’d ticket his own mom, so yea, maybe don’t name drop him to another officer and expect to get off with a warning.
There are some pretty wonderful things about being a police wife too. I know I have plenty of men who consider my husband a brother. I have a huge extended family of blue that are here for us if we need them. And we are there for them.
Every holiday we stay home, never traveling to family further away. We stay home, Brad typically works, and I make enough extra food for officers to come and eat with us or take it on-the-go while they respond to calls. Because everyone deserves a warm, family style meal during the holidays.
Marshall has apraxia; a common fear of parents of children with apraxia is that if they ever get lost or separated from the parent is that no one will be able to understand the child’s broken words (stressful situations make it even harder for them to pronounce their words). Since Marshall is part of the Law Enforcement family, he already knows many of the local police and they know him. That will ease some of his anxiety and help him speak clearer; it also means that even if his speech is overwhelmed, the police already know his name and how to contact us to bring us back together. The reassurance that brings to me as a mother, is invaluable.
Sometimes, non-law enforcement recognize us to. That brings about situations that are extremely uncomfortable and sometimes pretty tense. Once, when we were walking in a parking lot, Brad and I were chatting along happily when he suddenly became silent. A man walking towards us was on his cell phone, he also quieted as he approached. His eyes were fixed on Brad, then over to me, down my arms to the stroller I was pushing and to Marshall. The twisted smile that came over his face as he stared at my son, who could pass for Brad’s doppelgänger, sent chills through me. He winked at Brad as he passed, resuming his phone call with “Well I just saw something interesting…”. The man had previously gotten in a physical altercation with Brad on the job, he has a history of domestic violence and was trying to attack his therapist when Brad intervened. He was a dangerous man who was all to happy to discover an officer’s wife and young child. Another time Brad, Marshall, and I were grocery shopping when a young man literally ran up to us. He complimented me and with an arrogance about him sarcastically said hello to “Officer Dingman”. Another violent offender going out of their way to let Brad know that his wife and child have been seen, trying to intimidate him. These instances are not rare and have happened on more than one occasion. So when I’m anywhere in public with Brad I follow his lead, if we suddenly have to turn this way or that way I quietly go along. It’s not people he has ticketed for speeding or seat belts that we avoid, it’s the ones that are violent and dangerous. Call us helicopter parents all you want, but because of this reality of being a police family, our children are never more than a few steps away from us.
There are many quirks and stories to explain why we live the way we live, and I’m sure I’ll cover more in future posts, this is just a little glimpse into our world. This is why police families are so close with one another, few others understand. It’s why the Trooper’s Wife isn’t simply Melissa (I much prefer Melissa), it’s because it’s how others view me. My husband’s profession very much influences my life, more so than just about any other profession. Being the Trooper’s wife isn’t always easy, but being Brad’s wife makes it all worth it.