Can I Have Your Kids If You Die?

My brother and sister-in-law were doing their will and this involved choosing caregivers for their two beautiful girls, seven and ten, should God forbid tragedy ever strike. I was super stoked. My other brother, my brother’s identical twin, is the obvious candidate for Daddy No. 2 but since he moved to Los Angeles, I hoped this might open the door for me to slide into the top position. I’m not nearly as good a person as either of my brothers but, if I were to inherit my nieces, they wouldn’t have to switch schools: a strong logistical argument in my favour, I thought.

“I love your girls more than life itself,” I said to my brother, “And If God forbid something ever happened to you, I will dedicate every second of my life to them and their happiness.”

“Thanks,” my brother said. “You’re a solid third.”


That wasn’t going to cut it for me. I’m not a very competitive person by nature. I rarely feel the need to win, find it tedious to count strokes at my in-laws annual family golf tournament (The Zaidy Open). When my mother passed away, my brothers and I each insisted that the other take the things most precious to her. But not this time. This time I was in it to win it.

“How long do I have to present my case?” I asked my brother.

“The lawyer is on his way over.”

“Okay.” I began to think on my feet. “Who else is in contention, here? Why don’t you put the girls on the line and all of us candidates can give our best sex talk?”

“Yeah, they know where babies come from.”

“Umm, ummm,” I started to panic. “What about herpes?” I asked, “Where are we at with herpes? They know about them? They don’t know about them?”

“Better yet,” I said, “let’s just ask them who they want to live with if mommy and daddy die?” Right!? So democratic! I honestly don’t know why I have been so worried about having kids because I am clearly going to nail this parenting thing. Kids love it when you treat them like adults.

“Good news,” my brother said, when he called back later. “You’ve moved up to number two.”

“Is that a real number two or a ‘you feel bad for me number two?’ Because I don’t need your pity number two spot.”

Except I wondered if I did?

Being so open about my anxiety, I often wonder if people’s image of me is compromised. I talk about how helpless I feel, and then feel resentful when anyone sees me as less than capable.

I write a blog about my anxiety as an outlet for my suffering, hoping that someone out there feels the same way I do and can relate. But not my nieces and nephews. I love them more than anything in the world and the idea that they might see me as less than able is horrifying. I want my nieces and nephews to think of me as cool and collected, fearlessly together. If they have questions about herpes, I want them to feel like they can come to me and ask, because I am a confident and composed adult who can be there for them. Always.

“You worry a lot Aunty Wendy,” my ten year old niece said to me the other day, as she painted my nails. “You need to, like, dial it down.”

Oh my God. It’s finally happened. I had worried about this moment for so long: when my nieces would be old enough to recognize  that perhaps Aunty Wendy’s anxiety is outside the realm of normal, that Aunty Wendy sometimes has trouble dialing down her nerves. And will they think less of me when they do? Do they think less of me now?

In all my years of therapy nobody has ever put it to me so clearly before. I need to, like, dial it down. That’s exactly what I need to do.

Except when the seven-year old tugs my arm and tells me she’s nervous before a family canoe trip because she has never been in a canoe before, I realize I can step up. I might have to Google STD-related questions but butterflies in the tummy, now that I can respond to. I hope against hope that my nieces will never in their lives feel anxiety as intensely as I do about anything at all, for even a moment, but when they are nervous for a school play or a dance recital or a new experience, I can be there. I can validate their feelings. I can tell them I get nervous too and that they can and will rise above their own nerves because they are wonderful and strong and loved no matter what. I can tell them what I do when I get nervous, how I take deep breathes in and let them out slowly.

I think that’s a good thing. I wish someone had told me those things when I was their age. Maybe I would be better now at dialing it down.