The who-gets-your-kid convo that some people have at Thanksgiving.

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I was sucked in to a particularly ….oh, I can’t think of the right adjective. That one word that will hang, shining and bright, symbolic of the emotions I want to portray. So let’s keep it simple. Let’s just say I was involved in a conversation yesterday.

The main players were myself, Mil, Bil/Sil, and HippyFamily…even though only Mil and I were actually there. I’ll leave out the main jist of the judgemental craziness for another post and focus on this point: who are you trusting to raise your children should you and your partner both die?

Not a pleasant thing to think about, but necessary. TMD and I were particularly worried about the safety and safeguarding of our own unique family configuration, and therefore had an explicit and detailed will – one for each of us – drawn up when I was pregnant.

Bil and Sil have chosen to leave their children in the care of HippyFamily. As far as I know, that has not changed. HippyFamily were selected because of ‘how we parent very similarly to them.’ Meaning, when our first niece was a newborn, they wore her in a sling….and HippyFamily introduced them to slings. Obviously it’s a bit more complex than that, but we can safely say the two families, in addition to being good friends, were united in their love of attachment parenting.

Roll on four years and their parenting philosophies really could not be more different. We are very similar to HippyFamily. In a nutshell, they are still attachment parenting, and they are unschooling. Just like us. Whereas Bil and Sil put their kids in nursery/had a nanny from the start, are often out of the country and away from the kids, and are pushing a very competitive, academic based lifestyle. Fine. To each their own.

But the conversation was Mil saying, ‘Yes, but if Bil and Sil died, HippyFamily would have to raise the children as Bil and Sil have been doing, wouldn’t they? I know we are too old, but if you left Snort and Coconut to us, we would do our best to make sure we raised them to the letter the exact same way you were raising them.’

All obvious comments about how it would be impossible to raise a child exactly the same as another person, I don’t know that I agreed with her.

I throw my hands up and wholeheartedly admit I am in the same camp of thought as HippyFamily – we choose to raise our kids similarly, which is very different from Bil/Sil. And perhaps that clouds my opinion and influences me more than I realise. I don’t know.

But I sort of think if you want your child to be happy, if you want them to be raised as one of the family, then there is a lot of give and take required. The lifestyle my nieces have and will continue to have is dramatically incompatible with HippyFamily. I don’t even know if they could mesh.

I believe that a parent has a responsibility to pick someone you trust to raise the children. Not someone that has to follow an exact script you leave behind (and I don’t know about Sil and Bil’s beliefs on this, so from here on out it’s all me), but someone you know will do the best they can. For us, that meant choosing someone with a similar outlook on life, that we KNOW will do her best even if she may not make the same choices as us.

Would I like Snort and Coconut to remain out of the school system? Obviously, yes. But more than that, I would want them to be with their aunt, who is fun, passionate, smart, and loving. She would offer them a different life than the one they would have with us, but let’s face it – if Snort and Coco had a life without us, it would always be different than it would have been.

So who has to adapt? Does the new family and caregivers have to change their way of life to incorporate a new child or two (though of course you can always choose a guardian who IS very similar to you, and have discussions about these things just in case)? Does the child have to ‘fit in’ with the new family? In the best of all possible worlds, all people involved would live and love together and make the situation work. Because, quite frankly, they have to.

And I stand firm by the choice we have made, by the beliefs that led us to make the choice. While we are here with our children, we make the decisions we make because we believe they are best for our family. And one of those decisions is who we trust with the monumental task of raising our children should the worst happen. We have to trust that once our children are in someone else’s care, that person will make decisions they believe are best for our children as well.

I hope all these thoughts stay hypothetical for all of us with children.

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2 Responses to “The who-gets-your-kid convo that some people have at Thanksgiving.”

  1. catsandcradles Says:

    This is something that we haven’t really decided on, although we know we should. There’s my brother, who would be great with a little bit more maturing, we think. (Not that he’s *immature*, but he’s several years younger than I am, and still enjoying his middle twenties.) There’s PB’s brother and his wife, who have the advantage of having a stable relationship and kids already, and are generally of a mindset not *entirely* dissimilar to our own. There’s my college roommate and her husband, who also have kids and have an even more similar child-rearing philosophy to ours. There are some other possible contenders.

    PB would ideally like for our kids to grow up in a queer household, because she feels like it’s part of their heritage. I agree that would be nice, but I don’t know that we have a really good option on that front. Especially because it’s important to us that our kids maintain relationships with our families. (It would be bad enough to lose your parents, without feeling like you lost your grandparents and aunts, uncles, and cousins at the same time, you know?) So that’s kind of a lot to ask of someone. “Hey, would you like to raise an addition child (or children!), and also have a whole new set of in-laws? Great!” We have friends here that I would 100% trust to raise children, but asking them to take our kids would be asking them to sign up for the whole Cross-Continental Family Visit Shuffle, and that’s a lot. (You know, in addition to visits to their own families.) The leading contenders are all at least on the same coast.

    I think you (in the general, not “you” in the specific) have to accept that no one else would raise your kids exactly the same way you would, because no one else *is* you. I would try to chose someone with the same core values, but I wouldn’t expect them to do things the way I would do them, just because I would do them that way. (Especially if they already have children they’re raising. It’s not like you’d want to raise one set one way, and the other set a different way, you know? That just sounds like a terrible idea.) I think it’s fair to make a firm request or two (I want the kids kept in contact with their extended family, or raised in a certain religion, or raised vegetarian, or whatever you feel most strongly about). I also think it’s a good idea to choose someone for whom honoring that request wouldn’t be a hardship. Past that, though… if the worst came to pass (and of course we all hope it won’t for any of us), they’re the ones doing the child-rearing. The decisions are theirs, ultimately. You chose someone you think will make good decisions, and trust them to do just that. At least, that’s my thinking.

    Especially as the kids get older, it’s worth considering familiar environments, as well. Would it be better for the kids to go to a relative who lives in a different area, meaning that in addition to losing their parents, they’d also lose close contact with their friends and familiar surroundings, or a friend that lives close by, and could at least keep them in the same circles, although it would probably be more of an adaptation in terms of additional family? I’m not saying I think one is better than the other; they both have advantages and disadvantages. And I think which would be better for you depends in part on your kids, and their temperaments, and where they are in life. When I was 13 or so, my parents updated their wills, and asked me what I would prefer happen to myself and my brother, should something happen to them: Should we go to our aunt and uncle, who we saw regularly but not frequently, and who lived a state away, or family friends who lived a couple of blocks away, and who we saw weekly or so? At 13, I picked the family friends. At, say, 7, I might, or might not, have made a different choice.

    Having typed all this out, I realize the part that directly addresses your question is just the third paragraph. But having written it all out, I find myself loathe to erase it all. My apologies.

  2. Social Saturday: My favourite reads of the week | Faded Seaside Mama Says:

    [...] Existere raises a discussion that we should all have with our partners.  Who would we want to take care of our children should something dreadful happen and they are left orphaned?  It’s not an easy question to [...]

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