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Mon, Mar 29, 2010
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Should the grim reaper call...
by Clara Chow

MOTHERS can be a morbid lot.

We obsess over what happens if we meet an untimely demise and try to arrange for things from beyond the grave – in the hope that our children won't be affected too much by our deaths.

My friend, the sweetest-tempered mum of a six-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl, recently endured a terrible migraine which wouldn't go away.

It impaired her sight so badly that she couldn't read, work or function properly.

Thinking the worst, while possessing a healthy flair for dramatics, she began to prep her beleaguered husband on how to single-handedly raise their kids.

"Do you know how to buy underwear for them, or not?" she'd demand while nursing her headache. "You must buy the cotton kind for their sensitive skin!"

Later, when she had fully recovered, she and I shared a laugh over how she had been consumed by these trivial details in her darker moments.

We concluded that an impulse to micro-manage our young children's lives seems to take over when you think you're knocking on death's door.

For me, it is about finding the right guardians for my two sons, four-year-old Julian and five-month-old Lucien.

I am constantly bugging the Supportive Spouse about making our wills, in which we spell out who takes charge of the boys if anything untoward happens to both of us.

Over time, I keep revising my list of possible replacement parents and relative-mentors for my kids.

Their aunts and uncles who dote on them naturally top the list, as do close friends who have seen the Supportive Spouse and me through thick and thin.

They will – I am counting on it – be able to instil some intellectual and moral fibre into Julian and Lucien, while loving and providing for them like their own.

I even went so far as to make my cousin P – who shares almost all of my DNA, as our fathers are brothers and our mothers, sisters, and who was my neighbour, schoolmate and partner in crime for most of our lives – promise me that she would look after my kids if I ended up prematurely in the great shopping mall in the sky.

Although bemused, she agreed to do what I asked of her. In turn, I'd return the favour for her unborn children.

I know I'm not alone in this endeavour. One mum I know, when I posed my what-if-you-die dilemma to her, reeled off specific criteria the guardians of her baby son must meet, including the ability to raise him in a Christian household.

Another replied readily that she had already begged her close friends, a couple who owned the Australian farm she married her husband on, to care for her five-year-old son in the unlikely event.

The fact that her son would have to uproot from here and move to Australia to join them was, to her, not an issue.

Uprooting, however, is problematic for me, as the idea of my poor orphaned children grappling with both a new family and a new country was a little too much to bear.

The key, I have realised, is to review periodically your choice of guardian, as circumstances change and physical and emotional distances open up in relationships.

In the aftermath of Michael Jackson's sudden death last year, and the attention surrounding the fate of his children (he had stipulated in a 2002 document that his mother becomes legal guardian, with family friend Diana Ross as back-up guardian), the practice of appointing a legal guardian for one's children in a will came under the spotlight in the media and various parenting websites.

The Associated Press reported how too many parents are avoiding making a choice, with experts advising that such a decision should ideally be made before the birth of a child.

Morbid? Maybe. Crazy, no.

It is a case of being well-prepared for all eventualities, instead of leaving things up to the arbitrary decision of a court of law.

Clauses about cotton underwear? Optional.

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