Friday, 25 October 2013

Are godparents relevant anymore?

Godfather? Me? Now that's an offer I can't refuse.
Traditionally, the role of a godparent was a religious one. Faith abiding adults were assigned to children to be their religious guides in life and help them gain a greater understanding of God and his ways (hence the title). These days? It's simply about choosing friends or family members you want to be involved in your child's life. Something didn't sit right with either option for my husband and I, and as a result both of my boys still don't have godparents yet.

We did get them baptised (being Anglican myself I was very keen on this and luckily my non-religious husband didn't object), however unlike Catholic ceremonies, we didn't have to choose godparents straight away (or at all for that matter). So after much deliberation, we decided to take the option of putting the jobs on hold, because we just didn't feel comfortable with who to pick. Here are a few reasons why.

God ain't that cool no more
It's quite hard to find openly religious people nowadays (at least with Christianity anyway), and even though I have my faith I'm not a weekly churchgoer. So even if we had selected someone steeped in the ways of the church to be a godparent, the likelihood they would have been amongst our immediate network of friends or family would have been slim. It also would have felt a bit hypocritical (given my slackness on the church front), and the relevance for our children as they got older would have been questionable.

It's quite a big ask when you think about it
I'm a godmother twice over - to one of my nephews and also the daughter of some close friends (who both also have other godmothers and godfathers in addition to me). I was extremely honoured to be asked and I know I'll always have a presence in these children's lives. I do however have friends who  have admitted to me they find being a godparent a bit stressful trying to remember birthdays and other important occasions, and they feel guilty if they haven't checked in on their godchild for a while. Kind of makes you wonder, do some people actually see it more as a burden than a blessing, and is it really just about giving presents?

What if you choose the wrong person?
Life can go in all sorts of directions. People can move away or become estranged, like what happened to a friend of mine. Her godmother was an aunt by marriage, but after she split from her uncle she never heard from her again. There's also the chance that whomever you pick might not be that keen for the task; or for one reason or another, in time they cease to be acknowledged as the godparent (which is what sort of happened with my own godmother). In many cases then you get an absent godparent, which begs the question, should you have bothered appointing them in the first place?

Family is wonderful, but...  
I did seriously consider making my two sisters the godmothers of my boys - they're amazing aunties and family do tend to stick around! However, they're already such huge presences in my children's lives, and always will be, so at the time we didn't feel the need to give them an additional title just because of formalities.

In summary, the godparent conundrum is something my husband and I discussed endlessly ever since I was first pregnant. It was worse than picking our bridal party because a wedding is a one-off event - godparents are (generally) for life. So to try and shed some light on the matter at the time, I asked around at mother's groups and playgrounds and got quite a variety of answers.

Some people had chosen godparents as a necessity because they were baptising their children to ensure placement at a Catholic school; others had chosen friends who they wanted to make feel important or included (such as those without children themselves). A bit like Lady Gaga being the godmother of Elton John's son - are they really close pals or was that just some crazy PR? Who knows, but at least old Reggie wisely chose someone younger than himself...

In my delving I also came across people who chose godparents despite not having a baptism (which to me kind of makes the title a bit odd); and some parents who mistakenly believed their appointed godparents would be the guardians of their child if anything unfortunate should happen to them. This is of course incorrect (unless they've been officially written into a legal will), however I imagine would have made the task of picking the right person even more intense.

And here we are. Two baptised children and no godparents...yet. My husband and I decided before our first son's christening that we would like to select godparents for our children, but we didn't want to force the job on anyone. So we came up with a plan which was to wait a few years and see who naturally took an interest in our children's lives, or was a good role model and a regular presence. Now that some time has passed we do in fact already have a few ideas, and when the time is right, perhaps we'll appoint some godparents after all.

Godparents - important or trivial? Let me know your thoughts...

photo credit: BFLV via photopin cc

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