It was a dark and stormy period in my life. I was single, alone, lonely, and hoping to turn my close-knit group of friends into a contemporary family unit. One of those friends, Karen*, was going through a particularly ugly period with her siblings and felt like she also needed to redefine family. So she presented me with an idea that seemed to partially solve both our problems:
“If something happens to me and my husband,” she said, “what would you think of being our children’s guardian?”
No brainer. I loved Karen and her husband and would do anything to help them. I also loved her kids, and I knew I would step in and do my very best to raise them well.
Plus, instant family! I started to plan out various scenarios with me in the starring role. The comforter, the mentor, the auntie admired by all for courageously and selflessly raising someone else’s children. The proud substitute-mom at soccer games, choir performances, and graduations. The doting grandmother….
I completely glossed over the tragic demise of two close friends.
You’ll be relieved to know that Karen and her husband are alive and well, and their kids are now in college. Karen reconciled with her siblings and designated one of her brothers and his wife as potential guardians. All was as it should be.
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. I knew it was wrong, but those evil fantasies were tantalizing, alluring, even comforting. Getting a ready-made family seemed simpler (and possibly more possible) than my plan for dating, finding a suitable husband/father, and following the traditional route to family making (which, as you all know, didn’t pan out for me).
Every so often a mom friend will complain to me about her kids and say, “Do you want them?” and I’ll think, Be careful what you wish for.
*Not her real name.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is mostly at peace with her childfree status.