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Dec 21 2010

Why I Plan to Live Forever

By at 8:31 am

120 years. That’s roughly how long I plan to live. Which is why my husband and I have pretty much completely neglected the question of who should take care of our children if something were to–God forbid–happen to us. After all, a 90-year-old man really shouldn’t need look after him. Time to cut the cord, you know?

Which is to say, we haven’t written a will. This drives my father insane. So much so that every time he sees us his idea of small talk has become, “So, have you written a will yet?” A question only slightly less weighted with meaning than “So, when’s your husband going to finish his PhD?”

My dad turns 80 next month and I came up with the idea that in addition to whatever gadget we buy for him, we could also give him peace of mind.  So, haltingly at first, my husband and I began the difficult discussion of who we’d want to raise our two young boys if something terrible happened to us.

We quickly realized that, well, it’s complicated. There are so many people in our lives who can give our sons love and stability. But who can raise them to be the kind of Jews we want them to be?

My sister is the mother of five happy, well-adjusted children.  She and her Catholic husband are still young and energetic, and our children would be embraced and no-doubt thrive, surrounded by family. But a kosher home? Some kind of Shabbat? Jewish schools and summer camp? No, no, no, and no.

“Surely my sister would take pains to raise my children just as I’d want them raised–especially in light of the tragic nature of our passing,” I insisted. “At 30k plus in tuition a year,” my husband said, “don’t count on it.” And he’s right.

So the question is, is that a deal-breaker? It shouldn’t be, and yet, being Jewish is so much a part of who we are that we can’t imagine letting go of it without a fight.

So what about friends, then? Again, more questions than answers. One couple obviously loves our children. But they’ve already made some choices for their kids we’d never make for ours. Another couple is nearly identical to us in terms of values.  But I just don’t think our friendship has reached the “Would you mind caring for my children in the untimely event of my death?” level. And anyway, how do you even begin that conversation? “Hey guys, remember how you said if we needed anything we should just let you know? About that…”

Finally, there’s my best friend and her husband. They’re a good religious match. They have the means. And I truly believe that in 10, 15, 20 years I’ll still be speaking to them. Except…they live hundreds of miles away, and my children hardly know them. It would be the very definition of upheaval.

There you have it. We are deeply undecided, caught between a thousand impossible compromises, but at least our mortal heads have been pried out of the sand.

So, talk to me–have you and your partner gone through this yet? What values do you think are most important when choosing a new mom and dad for your babies?

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4 Responses to Why I Plan to Live Forever

  1. Elanit says:

    Funny, we actually started talking about this seriously last week. We haven’t written a will, health care proxy, life insurance, etc. I figure it’s time for us to grow up and finally become the adults we pretend to be. I have no idea where this road will take us, but at least we’re finally walking (slowly) down that path.

  2. Aliza says:

    My husband and I did this almost as soon as we became parents. When discussing our thoughts with our parents, we got some very insightful advice. Although your friends may be more on par with where you are religiously, nobody will keep your child connected to family and respect the family wishes like family itself. There are very few perfect solutions in what would, G-d forbid, be a very imperfect, and indeed tragic, circumstances. If there is a family member whose level of religiosity is agreeable to you, and they share similar values to yours, go with that person. Also, make it the family member, not the family member and his/her spouse. My mother’s sister and her first husband divorced around the time I was 7 or 8 years old. However, according to my parents’ wills, until I was 18 I would still be going to live with both of them. (By that point they were each re-married to other people for a LONG time!) Also, have a back-up person. In case for whatever reason your first choice can’t do it.

  3. Mthousemama says:

    We are in the same boat. BIL & his wife not sure about, my family is not Jewish and most of our good friends aren’t either (strange but true). His parents would do a fine job but he has is reservations about when the kids get older.

    My only thought is to ensure that all of these people remain in my children’s lives. Perhaps find someone you’d like to be primary family but leave instructions for others to be involved still. My idea is to have my in-laws have the kids but suggest that my sister & family take them once a month for the weekend, and same for my BIL and his wife. Then as the kids get older ask that my BIL and his wife be willing to take them if the kids feel they want to move. I know my in-laws and BIL will ensure the kids are raised Jewish, certainly not how I would have done it but in the end what your kids need is loving adults who can help them remember their parents and grow into adults you would be proud of.

    We don’t have a Will yet but truely need to do one.

  4. Brooke says:

    We have struggled with similar issues. We have a bunch of sibling options but none that would raise our children to be the Jews we hope they will be. That being said, our current choices, which we only have in draft form (nothing signed yet), based on a combination of factors. We are looking for a family in which our children would be close to their cousins, aunts/uncles and grandparents and would live in a Jewishly vibrant home, even if our exact version of Judaism won’t be replicated. We feel that if they are raised with both some level of Jewish observance and a strong love for Jewish values and ritual, that they will be able to make informed decisions about their spiritual lives when they are adults.


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