Monday, June 25, 2007

Guardians of our Children

Sephardi Lady has a fascinating post titled Guardianship Dilemma, which discusses a somewhat uncomfortable topic: Whom would you want to take care of your children in case of death (c'v)? She focuses on a different question - would you ask the permission of the person you've chosen to put their name on the will or would you not ask and assume they will step up should the need arise. I really don't know what to think, and there is much to be said for both sides. There are a lot of good points in the comments of SL's post - feel free to add your own.

I'm curious how people choose who they would want to take their child; I'm assuming that people generally pick a sibling [or parents if young enough], which makes great sense, obviously, but I wonder how many seriously consider a friend instead? Often, a large part of that decision is hashkafa (essentially ideals), and I feel that a couple is often closer in hashkafa* to their close friends than to their siblings, in addition to the friends being a closer age match/having kids of their own of similar age [which may or may not make things easier].

Other factors I can think of:
  • Finances
  • Age
  • Number of other children
  • Personalities
  • Location
  • Education
* Feel free to disagree. I just notice that this seems to be the case not only in my family, but with each of my parents, with Serach's family, and with each of her parents... in addition to many other people we know.


  1. My wife and I were just talking about this...we don't know who to pick

  2. You absolutely MUST talk to the people that you want to have as your childrens' guardian. You have to have a frank discussion and talk about the provisions you will make in case G-d forbid they are left parentless. This includes discussions on whether they can handle your children as well as their own, how you wish your children to be educated, how your life insurance will cover expenses and an addition to their house to house your family, understanding the situation with your exenteded families on both sides who will still be part of your childrens' lives. It's one thing to inherit a sum of money without knowing that it was coming, but to have a family dropped in ones lap is asking a lot. Often people assume their parents will be the ones but you have to think carefully and perhaps update this depending on their ages and health and on the number and ages of children you have.

    This is extremely serious and everyone with children starts to notice different parenting styles as well which only makes things more difficult. You want to assure yourselves that your children are loved and taken care of in a most traumatic time and the problems they may have will be taken care of with love and compassion. This is not just a friend who will take care of the kids when you go away for a couple of days, it's forever.

  3. I had this discussion with a close friend recently - she asked us in addition to a married sibling on each side, and she wasn't sure if we'd be first, second, or third in line.

    I suggested to her that it would be wisest if we were not first on the list. I think unless there is a major issue, family is preferrable to friends. We're also the first on my brother's list, so that swayed my decision too.

    Although I love my friend's kids in my own way, it is not the same unconditional love one feels for nieces and nephews, grandchildren, etc. That's coming from the "I'm just human" file.

  4. I totally agree with rageddymom, about family. Your family would stand in front if an oncoming train for you, would your friends? I also disagree a bit with Ezzie- haskafah is not the most important thing, unless your family member is completely irreligious and you are religious, then i don't think it si important if everything else factors in ok.

  5. DAG - I hear ya.

    Mommy - Great points all...

    RM - I basically agree with that. OTOH, what if your siblings can't afford to do it or you think are going to raise them very differently than how you'd want to?

    Anon - I hear that as well. I should note that I wasn't saying hashkafa is the most important, I was using it as an example because it came to mind thinking about our own families. But I wouldn't say it's not important: Particularly for older kids, a large transition in hashkafa can be *very* confusing and cause problems.

    In general, though, I'd agree that if they're similar it shouldn't play much of a role if it's a family vs. friends thing with everything else being equal.

  6. FWIW, a friend once asked me to fill this role, but I noted that, as I'm still single, I probably wouldn't be the best choice.

    If one would consider a friend as a guardian, though, it implies that this is no mere friend, but rather a friend who's almost like family, in which case it may be a viable possibility in the event that one does not have any suitable candidates within family.