A Promise You Don't Want To Have To Keep

by Glynis Ratcliffe
Originally Published: 

There are some promises you make that you never want to think about again. They are about the what ifs, the events you can’t imagine happening. They are hard things, those promises, and before you hide them in some unused corner of your mind, you hope with all your might that you won’t have to fulfill them one day. But you make them anyway, because everyone sleeps better at night knowing those promises are in place.

When I heard about the Ruffino family adopting their best friend’s four daughters, after she died from brain cancer, it sent chills through me. The whole thing hit a little bit close to home. My friends and I are all around 40, and most of us have kids. But the kicker is that we’re listed on our best friends’ will as the legal guardians of their two children, should something happen to both parents.

It was about five years ago, when they asked us. Unlike the recent story, this was not a promise thrown out there. This was a formal request, made after serious consideration on the part of our friends. Both sets of grandparents were getting too old to care for young children full time. Siblings were out of the question for a multitude of reasons. Other friends were a possibility, but health and proximity were issues.

This isn’t to say we were last on the list. Our friends knew, however, that we had some financial challenges, so the decision wasn’t made lightly.

But the truth is, my husband and I are practically family to them. He’s known her since high school and was in their wedding party. Both of them were in our wedding party. The three of them lived together for several years, and I joined them for the last few months before my husband and I moved in together. We were the first to find out they were expecting their second child. They were the ones to guess that I was pregnant the first time, when I hadn’t figured it out myself. When he was 5, their son spent a whole year asking me to marry him. We camp together every year, and we have them up to our cottage for a week every summer.

Our lives are completely intertwined in the best way possible.

So when they asked us if we would become legal guardians for their children should anything happen to them, there was really no other answer but yes.

At the time, we didn’t have any children of our own together, though we were beginning to plan for them. Reflecting on a scenario that would leave those kids with us, we would, like the Ruffinos, need to do some serious adjustments to make things work. Bigger house, second car, way more money for groceries. But those are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

And while a story like this one reminds me that life can be short, tragic, filled with unexpected turns that may separate us from those we love, and that those promises you made once may be required of you some day, it doesn’t make me wish things were another way.

On the contrary: It makes me incredibly grateful to have people in my life who trust me so completely with their children. That is no small thing.

The reality is that there’s only a remote chance that we will ever need to fulfill our promise to our friends. But if that time came, we, like the Ruffinos, wouldn’t think twice about doubling our family size and taking those kids into our home. It would be an honor and a privilege.

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