How many hours have you spent, watching your children sleep? Staring at their long lashes, listening to their gentle breathing, and touching their soft faces while they dream. Feeling that quiet peace, that all is right in the world, while they are safe in your care.

The past three months have provided many a moment while I watch and make sure my baby girl is “really” asleep. As I tiptoe across the hall, I always stop to peek in on my big girl, to draw the blanket up over her shoulders, or make sure her favorite pink horse is still in his spot next to her. I cherish the moments of having them in my tender care.

But, it often looms. The “what-if’s” and all the possibilities that would like to run away with my sleep deprived conscience. Especially in the dark of night. In the endless hours of nursing and rocking, I often have pen and paper in hand to work on the never ending “to do” list that comes with parenting. That to do list that we all would like to avoid if possible. The one that includes words like: “beneficiary,” “survivor,” “trust,” “will” “estate” and my least favorite of all…”guardian.” 

My husband and I are some of the parents who try to push these issues to the back burner. Those parents who have put off making all their plans and wishes “official” in the event that something happens to the both of us. Sure, we have put some things on file with our family attorney. We even have a sealed letter that we have in our “love drawer” to be found if something happens to us. But now, with the addition of sweet baby Lucy, we have neglected making final decisions about the one awful outcome we don’t like to think about…and that being…who will love our babies like we do?

We know this issue isn’t limited to our little family. It’s a difficult decision for everyone. Often made more difficult for families who are small in number, perhaps the parents are only children, maybe the grandparents and siblings live far away or are deceased. Perhaps it’s a financial issue, not wanting to burden someone with the care of your children. Maybe no one shares similar religious or social beliefs. Perhaps the simple fact is that you just don’t believe that anyone in your close circle passes muster in considering how they would parent your children. Indeed, it can be any one of these or a combination of factors.

I have a college acquaintance who is married with two beautiful children. She told me in hushed tones at one time how she and her husband had made a pact that until their oldest child was 18, they would never take a vacation that didn’t include the whole family, because of her fears. That being, if something happened to her and her husband, there would be no one to raise her children.

I made DH promise that we would get back to our attorney’s office before the hectic spring season steals away what precious little time we have to finish making these hard decisions. That we need to talk to the people we love, and have chosen to entrust our children to, in the untimely event of our deaths. That we need to purchase more life insurance to assure that at the very least they will not be a financial burden to anyone. I don’t want to. I don’t want to do any of these things…but we need to. And so do you.

There are no guarantees with this life. No promises, no assurances that it will all go according to plans. On this side of eternity, faith followed by doing our best to plan for a variety of outcomes is the best we can do. So, as you begin this New Year alongside us, will you also do your part? Make 2016 the year where you don’t put off those hard decisions. Utilize local resources such as a trusted financial advisor, or church pastor, books, and trusted friends and family members. Make it the year you invest in your children and their future – because it’s important – because it’s part of showing them you love them like you do.

Leah Peterson

Leah Peterson is a native Nebraskan, living on the ranch her ancestors homesteaded in 1878. She and her husband Matt, met at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and returned to the ranch in 2012 after working and living in Central Nebraska the past 12 years. They are parents to two daughters, Maggie and Lucy. Leah has an undergrad degree from UNL in Communication Studies, and a MA in Leadership from Bellevue University. Aside from her work at the ranch and opportunity to be a stay at home mom, she enjoys writing, photography, community involvement, spending time with friends and family and trying new recipes in her kitchen. Leah published her first children's book in 2011 titled "An Apple for Dapple" and enjoys traveling throughout the state to share her book with children and raise awareness about the importance Agriculture in Nebraska.