We haven’t appointed legal guardians for our children. I’ve thought and thought and thought about it and I know that it I really important, but we still haven’t done it. Because, at the end of the day, how do you choose who you feel is going to be the best person/people to look after your children in your stead?
I’ve come up with a list of criteria to help me determine who is best placed to raise my children in the not-to-be-thought-of event of Mou and me both dying.
It’s important for me that the people who may potential end up raising my children are:
1) Familiar with my children
We have a number of family members who live in other cities and countries. Mou’s sister, for example, lives in Australia. Unfortunately she has never met either of the kids. Although Rose has chatted on the phone to her Aunt and cousins, and can point to Australia on a map, she doesn’t know these people. They are essentially strangers to her. The idea of her being shipped off to stay with people she doesn’t know in the seriously traumatic event of the death of both her parents is gut-wrenching. So no matter how many of the other criteria these relatives meet, I just can’t consider them.
2) Share my values
I want my children to grow up to resemble the adults they would be if I raised them. My values are important to me; that’s why they are my values. I do not want my daughters to become subservient women who don’t understand feminism. I don’t want my daughters to become super-consumers with no social conscience (these two things of course do not need to go together!). The point being, that I want the people who may end up raising my children to be like me, at least in so far as values are concerned. When I go through my list of potential guardians, I am struck with a small problem – none of them exactly shares our values! To be honest, even Mou and I don’t share our values 100% so how am I going to find a substitute?!
3) Experienced parents
Children who have been orphaned are going to have a hard time. I want the people raising my orphans to understand children and be able to give my kids the best support possible. I want them to be able to take over the parenting role quickly and easily with the least amount of additional drama for my kids. I want them to understand what they are agreeing to when they agree to be guardians in the first place. I want them to be 100% committed.
4) Financially and otherwise able to raise my kids
I want the guardians to be experienced but not too experienced! If you already have two or three kids of your own, are you going to be able to take both of mine in? And it is an absolutely requirement that they stay together, so it’s all or nothing here. We are in the privileged position to be able to afford the insurances etc that will mean our children won’t be destitute in the event of our death. But regardless of the financial resources that come with them, the guardians of my children need to have all the resources necessary to be great parents, including time and energy.
Is it over-thinking it to want to appoint a guardian who is physically and mentally healthy? Does this preclude the grand-parents from taking on parenting responsibility for the littlies? Does it preclude my very good friend who has an apparently dormant but potentially debilitating illness? What about family members who are recovering substance users? The idealist in me answers all these questions with a great big Yes, as in Yes these conditions/situations preclude you from being considered to look after my children.
When I apply these filters to all our family and friends, I end up crossing everyone off the list. Why? Because when all is said and done, I want to be the one raising my children. Regardless of all my imperfections, I am the best person to parent them. Even thinking about the possibility of not being here to guide them through life renders me utterly irrational. I hadn’t really considered myself massively egotistical before (and I don’t actually want to see little mini-mes running around as some of my comments above may suggest) but this is not a scenario I can separate myself from and look at rationally. It is so intrinsically wrought up in who I am, who I want to be, what I want for my kids, that I am rendered completely unable to make a decision.
Luckily, there are two parents in this family and I don’t need to battle this out alone. Mou, I can’t do this one, can you?
Photograph: (c) Julie Donald, 2010