With a loved one behind bars, how a Winnipeg mom is making the most of Christmas for her kids

This First Person column is the experience of Catrina Purdy, a Winnipeg mother of four. For more information about CBC’s First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

I am Catrina Purdy, 26 years old, and I have four children from the ages of one to six and an amazing partner.

And yet Christmas is anything but normal in our lives.

When I was younger, I lost my grandma on Christmas.

Now this Christmas, for our children, I will be putting a tree up for the first time in years.

But at the same time, my partner is incarcerated. So I am doing this all on my own.

Even though he is incarcerated, that doesn’t mean he is absent in my kids’ lives. A few things my partner does is put in effort for me and my kids, despite him not being their blood dad. 

There will still be Christmas gifts signed ‘Love, Daddy.’– Catrina Purdy

This year, he was the only one who called me and my children on birthdays and who made it possible that they received something.

The support my partner gives me from inside is more than some who aren’t behind bars. He calls every day, he sends letters and he provides me with the best emotional and mental support he can.

He’s made bad decisions, but he’s not a bad person. 

Doing this is not easy, but I know I’m not the only one going through struggles at this time. I’m happy to say that right now in my life I am happy, regardless of if he is gonna be here physically or not. 

‘To us, family is first’

I have my kids, and to us, family is first. My children will have an amazing traditional Christmas. We do these things as parents because I would do anything for my children.

But the reality of our life right now at Christmas is we don’t know when we will talk to my partner again. We just hope he makes it out of there alive. That’s our reality. 

I’m not a perfect person or a perfect parent either. But the reason I do what I do every day is because I was raised by an amazing father all my life for 15 years — until one day, I was told he wasn’t my blood dad.

I learned my blood dad was in jail throughout my life and never put in the effort to call or have a relationship with me.

Catrina Purdy says she’ll decorate a tree this year, in an effort to make Christmas feel ‘normal’ for her children. (Donna Carreiro/CBC)

Now, as a parent myself, I don’t hide who their biological fathers are from them (like mine was from me). I’ve never doubted the respect and love my partner has for our children, because he shows it to the best of his ability from behind bars. There will still be Christmas gifts signed “Love, Daddy.”

I wish I got to see him one more time before he went to prison, but I can’t wait for my children to wake up on Christmas morning and open their gifts.

As for me, my children are the best gifts I have ever received in life.

I appreciate the chance for my story to be heard.

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