Ottawa Police Const. Brad Burleau looks tough enough in uniform.
At home, though, “I’ve had numerous makeovers, tea parties, picnics, you name it — but that’s all I want,” for Father’s Day, Burleau said.
“Just to spend time with my girls.”
Shift work cuts into how often he sees Madison, 7, Cadence, 5, and 18-month-old Emersyn.
“With the rotation of my job, it’s very hard, I find,” Burleau said.
He credits his “amazing” wife, Sarah, for ensuring the kids are looked after.
She runs the household while working part-time, and that comes with its own juggling act.
Madison has Angelman Syndrome, a neurogenetic disorder occurring in roughly one per 20,000 people.
At 18 months old, “she wasn’t meeting any milestones,” Burleau said.
“We knew that something was off.”
When Madison was diagnosed, doctors predicted she’d never walk or talk, likely functioning as a one- or two-year-old.
“She took seven independent steps all by herself about a year ago,” said Burleau, beaming.
Since then, she’s consistently averaged seven steps each day, he said, adding that he was “absolutely amazed by that. For us to be told that she wouldn’t do it, it’s just fuel for us to make sure that she does.”
Madison even communicates “in her own way. It’s not verbal,” he said.
“She speaks to you with her eyes and her face.”
With the pressure of a career, fatherhood and trying to keep his marriage thriving, “seeing her becoming more independent keeps me going,” Burleau said.
So does Sarah.
To maintain bliss in the domestic sphere, communication is paramount.
“The odds of divorce are high enough to begin with,” he said.
“And then you throw in a special-needs kid, and then you throw in that I’m a police officer, and then you throw in this and that. Technically, on paper, we should be doomed. But we spend time with each other every day.”
Having a child with special needs is demanding and with the children in the household outnumbering the parents, naturally there’s often “one of them doesn’t get the attention,” he said.
Nonetheless, “it’s amazing to see all three of my girls learning something new at different ages,” Burleau said.
“For me to be a part of it? Bonus!”