LIVE BY DESIGN | Choosing a guardian: I know who I’d want it to be, but I’m afraid she might die

As I think about who I should ask to accept my request that they be a guardian to my child, I remember my former boss’s frank comment about me eight years ago: “Mapi is a talented news director. While her abilities are awe-inspiring, her weight concerns me. I fear that one day she may collapse in the newsroom, and that would be devastating.” These words, told to me face to face during a 360 assessment of my performance, profoundly impacted me. I decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery seven years ago. Since then, I have successfully shed 73 kilograms and now weigh a healthier 77 kilograms.

As I review the relationships in my life to consider who would provide the perfect guardianship for my adopted child, I find myself facing a similar dilemma to that of my boss, albeit for different reasons. My friend, Nomsa, would be the ideal trusted nominee as she shares my values. But Nomsa is obese and manages chronic diabetes. The fear of her potential demise haunts my decision-making.

As we continue to deliberate over the subject of guardianships, I also want to share this input from an associate:

“I hope this letter finds you well. I recently came across your thought-provoking article titled ‘Redefining Guardianship: Conversations We Need to Have About Our Kids Before We Die,’ and I wanted to express my gratitude for initiating such an important conversation.

“In a world where families are often scattered across the globe and have diverse financial means and parenting choices, discussing guardianship becomes crucial. Your article shed light on the significance of addressing this topic, as it impacts the future well-being and upbringing of our children.

“Reading your article reminded me of a decision my spouse and I made approximately 25 years ago. At that time, we were drawing up our will and choosing a guardian for our children. Without much discussion, we decided to name my older brother [in-law] as the guardian. Fortunately, our children have now grown up, and the responsibility of guardianship is no longer necessary. Our decision to choose my brother-in-law was primarily because he was family and a practising Christian.

“However, your article has raised an important question in my mind – what if someone makes the decision of guardianship for our kids without involving them in the conversation? This realisation has prompted me to take action and use the upcoming December holidays as an opportunity to gather our relatives from different parts of the world and address the issue of guardianship openly and honestly.

“Your article has emphasised the need for these conversations to take place, ensuring that our children’s best interests are considered, along with the values and preferences they hold dear. By involving our loved ones in this discussion, we can collectively make informed decisions that will shape our children’s lives in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

“Once again, I want to express my gratitude for your article, which has prompted me to rethink and take proactive steps regarding guardianship. It is through conversations like these that we can redefine the future, ensuring the well-being and security of our children. Thank you for your valuable contribution to this important discussion”.

Choosing a guardian is often made more complex when there are blended families and people immigrate and emigrate. A friend, a grandparent in her sixties, shared with me recently that their daughter and son-in-law requested a conversation with her and her husband, their stepfather.

They explained they would like them to consider accepting their nomination as the guardians of their two children. They explained they had considered their entire family network. Some siblings did not have resources. Other siblings with resources lived on other continents. They had concluded that the children’s future would best be served by their guardianship as they had good relationships with the children and shared values about child-raising, and they wanted their children to remain in South Africa. The thought of their children being uprooted to live with other family members on another continent was upsetting.

I guess my takeaway is that my friend’s daughter must have considered her mother’s and stepfather’s forthcoming elderliness and have reached the conclusion that, all things considered, the risks were worth taking.

So, back to Nomsa. Isn’t that true for me too? All things considered, she is a risk worth taking. Despite my concerns for her health, I sincerely believe she would make the best guardian. And who knows, if she were to accept my request, might she possibly consider changing her lifestyle to improve her chances of longevity? And that would be a bonus for all who love her.

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