Thing That Made Me Go "Hmmm"

There are those moments, as a parent, when something happens and it stops you cold in your tracks and makes you go “hmmm.” Let me explain with one that happened to me, as I was recently reminded in a conversation with lovely clients of mine…

When my oldest daughter was barely two years old and my middle daughter was a newborn, we were still settling into our new house. It’s about a hundred year old house with some narrow, wooden stairs. My husband was at work and it was just past lunch and time for the then-baby’s nap. I surveyed the Pack ‘n’Play carefully for anything small or chokable, then deposited the then-two-year-old there to play safely with non-chokable toys long enough for me to get her baby sister down for a nap. Now any mom who’s ever “been there” knows that it is impossible with “two under two” to relax under those circumstances, worrying about the “big” one while you’re trying to get the “little” one settled down. So I felt rushed and anxious to get back downstairs to check on my “big” girl.

Not wanting to waste an opportunity of going down the stairs without a baby in my arms or standing ready to catch a toddling toddler, I quickly grabbed a laundry basket and started down the stairs. It happened so fast; I was semi-flying through the air from about 3/4 of the way up and then landed flat on my back at the bottom of the stairs, winded. As I lay there catching my breath completely stunned, my first thought was: who would know to come check on and take care of my babies? I was comforted by the thought that one was pretty safely contained in the Pack ‘n’ Play and the other in her crib. But my husband wouldn’t be home for hours and I couldn’t even reach a phone. And then even when someone would come find me lying there, then what? What would happen to me? Who would take care of my babies if my husband was with me to speak for me if I couldn’t? Fortunately, I was OK. But the experience made me wonder.

I have rolled my experiences as a mom into my legal practice. That means when I make sure a parent does everything legally possibly to protect her children in the case of an accident, I don’t stop there. I also try to address all the practical needs. Today, I’m comforted by the steps I’ve taken (no pun intended) personally to ensure that, in the event of an accident, the people my children and I know and trust and love will be the ones to respond and care for them if I’m unable. My five-year-old can dial 9-1-1 (even better than that time she did so as a baby playing with the phone so she’d hold still while I changed her little diaper!) and from there, everything’s in place. My clients who are parents of minor children are often pleasantly surprised at the level of detail involved in the planning we do for their children. I have to admit, these are the pieces of the estate planning puzzle I most enjoy.

I love babies and children (always have!) and like most others, that has only intensified since I became a mother myself. I have definitely felt truth in that saying that a new mother becomes a mother to the world and every child becomes her child. So I try not to go overboard talking about this stuff with friends socially (I don’t want to be too much of a buzz kill!) but I really believe that it’s incumbent upon me, knowing what I do, to share that information with others to help them do everything they can for their children too. If you want to know whether you’ve done all you can, I invite you to start by downloading my free report 10 Upsetting Mistakes Even The Most Loving Parents Make That Could Leave Their Children Legally And Financially Vulnerable.” (Yep, just click that underlined link right there.) Everyone on my team here at DGVE law is a mom too. We get it. So after you read that, if you’re in Massachusetts and want to talk about your kids some more, just give us a call!

About Danielle G. Van Ess

Danielle G. Van Ess is a Massachusetts (born and raised), experienced estate planning and small business attorney who helps her clients protect and preserve what matters most to them. To learn more, please visit: or call: 781-740-0848

7 thoughts on “Thing That Made Me Go "Hmmm"

  1. Sadly, I had a friend whose dad died after that same type of fall down the stairs. He hit the back of his head. The kids were all grown up, but I know that the mom ended up having to sell her business and home to pay the bills, and my friend had to drop out of college because there was no money to pay for it.

    Now I feel like Debbie Downer, but this kind of stuff does happen, and it's best to have a plan in place!


  2. I live in the middle of nowhere and when I was on maternity leave and my husband was away on business, I wondered what would happen if something happened to me. It could be days before anyone would realize.

    We have taught the kids about 911 and what to do if something ever happened to an adult at home. We are trying to teach them phone numbers and addresses too.

    I've also taught both of them that if they ever get lost that they need to find a Mommy with kids and tell her that they are lost and that she will help them.


  3. Wow, that must have been scary for you, Danielle. I think we've all had moments like that. Mine was when my lovely beautiful little 4 year old locked me out of the house. I was “right there” and after 10 minutes (felt like 3 hours) of talking to him and explaining how to work the latch, he let me back in, but I couldn't stop worrying about what he and his 18 month old sister were doing.

    Luckily they giggled behind the door and he hooked them up with an extra juice box each (woot – mom's not here!). Not the same, but it did make me think about what would happen if something had happened to me while inside with them. Luckily, we know all of our neighbors really well and now that they are 9 and 7, they know how to dial 911 or walk next door. They know what to do if the get lost (the 9 year old thinks a cell phone would be a great way of doing this – um. no.)

    ANYWAY, just rambling – thanks for the reminder, the husband and I have been lax on finishing the wills and stuff – we cannot seem to agree on a few key points. Sigh, we just need to find a compromise and do it.


  4. Oh I've been there too, Candy! Now I pocket my house keys just to take out the trash or load up the car. Once bitten…

    As for having trouble reaching consensus with your husband on some key estate planning issues, it is a rare thing indeed when I have clients in here who agree on every point without needing my counseling or advice at all! Your lawyer really should be able to help you two make the best decisions for your family based on a clear understanding of all the important facts of your unique situation. Please let me know if you'd like a referral to someone near you.


  5. I have a two-year-old and a baby too, and I have no idea what would happen if something happened to me while I was home alone with them. Lots of crying, but that's about it.

    I don't know if it's a difference between men and women but I've often thought about what I would do if the police ever came to the door to say that something happened to my husband. I know who I'd call to look after the kids, who I'd ask to come with me, etc. When I asked my husband what he would do in the same situation he had no idea. I think it would be a bad time for him to realize how much he relies on me for info like phone numbers, etc.

    Given that I also practice estates law (or did before maternity leave), we have wills, powers of attorney and personal health care directives. Our wills should be updated, but it's better than nothing.


  6. Erin, part of what I did as a Type A++ mom was make a list of all the local emergency numbers and my kids' emergency guardians etc. and post them in our “family command center” along with babysitters' notes etc.. I made sure our parents, babysitters, etc. all know where those things are. So as an attorney, I always make sure to create and include a whole host of those sorts of things for my clients with minor children as well. It's definitely not within the range of what estate planning attorneys typically do for their clients, but then I think we've established by now that I am so not the typical estate planning attorney! Best wishes!


  7. I have definitely experienced the panic of what will my kids do if something happens to me. I once fell on my stairs too and my first thought was that my three kids were alone in the house with me and no real way to manage. I am going to use some of your ideas and work more on helping them know what to do and having a good plan in place for if hubby or a sitter ever needs an emergency plan. The big stuff is in place, but not the little stuff – good advice as always Danielle!


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