Q. My wife and I deadlocked over a critical issue. We have, after years of procrastinating, tried to put our estate in order. With two minor children, we must choose people who would become their guardians if my wife and I both died. We might as well be the Red Sox and the Yankees. She wants her brother and sister-in-law, who live out of state, to be our choice. While I have issues with their parenting “style,” I think it is very important that, in this unlikely scenario, we try and maintain as much stability, e.g. same school, same friends, same surroundings, remaining near my parents (their grandparents), etc.
I have chosen my best friend, “Justin,” and his wife. I have no siblings. I have known him since I was 2 years old, and he has consistently proved himself to be as close to “blood” as any true blood relative (and better than some). He is my family. He and his wife live two miles from where we live and would give our three children stability at a challenging time. We have sought the help of a psychologist, but she has been unable to help us see the other side to the point of changing our “vote.”
What do you suggest?
NOT DEAD YET DAD
A. You and your wife should consult an attorney to determine the custody laws in your state.
Recognizing that the odds of this happening are minuscule, if you both died it would be best for the children to have as stable a life as possible, with few transitions, such as moving — and to be raised by people who share your basic values. You also need to factor in the abilities (including financial) and willingness of your respective choices. If you ask each couple if they would be willing to do this, their response might help you and your wife make a joint decision. My understanding is that if you both died without naming a guardian, the court would decide, based on what it determines is in the best interest of the children. If you and your wife cannot decide on one guardian, you could each write a letter enclosed with your will promoting your own choice, which a judge would be able to use as testimonials to render a decision. Run this idea past your lawyer.
Q. I passed a milestone birthday a couple of months ago. My adult son (who lives less than 20 miles from me) was supposed to celebrate with me for dinner on the Saturday following my birthday. He had a meeting and suggested lunch Sunday instead. I said that I didn’t think that lunch was terribly celebratory. And it was dropped. Nothing — not a daisy, not a chocolate kiss, not even an index card saying happy birthday came from him. I would have been happy to see him any evening, but instead I got nothing. He has a milestone birthday coming soon, and I am angry and hurt. Should I ignore it and just say, “I thought we weren’t doing that anymore.” Should I swallow my pain and forget my hurt feelings? There are no other family members, so we only have each other.
A. You need to take a long view and see if your disappointment is intense enough to fracture your relationship with your son. I agree with you that he shouldn’t have completely dropped the birthday ball, but I disagree that a lunch isn’t “celebratory” enough. He must have been very discouraged to hear this from you. You should acknowledge this.
Don’t go the passive-aggressive route. Have an honest conversation about this, and make a determination to start fresh.