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Regarding someone else’s baby

June 4, 2010

In March, my high school best friend called to ask if I’d be her son’s godmother. I said yes, of course, without even thinking. I was thrilled and touched, if not exactly sure what it meant to her. A token godparent, a signature? A witness to his baptism? An honorary Aunt Leslie? Or all of the above, plus the first one to take care of him should – God forbid – something happen to his parents?

I found out when I reported to church on Easter Sunday to be sworn in. Daley (godson) was noisily struggling to get loose from his father, who asked me: “So if something happens to us, you’re really going to take this on?”

So, then: All of the above.

I said yes, of course, again, by this time having had God-forbid scenarios rolling around in my head for a week. Is a week long enough to imagine what it would be like to take on another’s child as your own? No way. But a second is long enough for an instinct and an answer.

I’m not the only one with a vaguely defined sense of godparenting. Last weekend, the New York Times ran this story on the godparent trap  – the flattering and obligatory tradition that inevitably results in either absentee godparents or too-good versions who turn into “Octogodmom.”

The author’s description of the ideal godparent sounds to me like aunts and uncles, or the occasional older cousin. In my family, they remembered our birthdays, took us on trips, found special things in common, encouraged hobbies and inspired interests. They populated our parents’ village (as I expect my siblings, cousins and besties will populate mine.)

So we weren’t hurting for a doting godparent. But for the kid who doesn’t know a big extended family eager to pour time, energy and resources into the next generation, I imagine that godparents are where it’s at. And, as the article suggests, why not have more than two? Playing on their strengths, recruit a village!

Daley has only two busy, far-away uncles. I live nearby, I adore him, and when he’s older I’ll tell funny stories about his parents.  I missed his first birthday party to tend to my sick child, but he’ll forgive me. After all, we met when he was brand new to the world, and I’ve take nearly as many pictures of him as I have of Jack.
See why?

I’m determined to be a great godmother. And if that eventually earns me octogodmom status, I’ll take it.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2010 7:34 pm

    He’s delicious! Just look at that picture.

    I never thought of the godparent thing like that at all! In fact, I don’t see it yo have a huge meaning in most families any more. Though I do believe there is certainly a place for it.

  2. June 4, 2010 8:12 pm

    Oh goodness, he is cute! No wonder you agreed to be his godmother. 😉

    I was raised in a Catholic family in which my parents did a notoriously bad job of choosing godparents for my brothers and me. My godmother, for instance, divorced my uncle and we haven’t spoken to her since. Hmm…maybe that explains my mixed-bag relationship with religion…

  3. June 4, 2010 9:37 pm

    I would! My son’s godparents have two other godchildren and the boy likes to refer to my son as his “godbrother.” So cute.

  4. June 4, 2010 10:56 pm

    What a sweetie!!!
    I’m like Kristen, my parents made bad choices with godparents for both me and my brother (except my godmother, she’s my favorite aunt, but she never really did much…) My parents don’t even talk to my brothers godparents, and my godfather has been estranged from the family.
    But they weren’t looking to have godparents for their children in the sense that you are. They weren’t really looking to keep extended family as a villiage – which is a shame. I want that for my children, but have yet to find it. I think you’re very lucky to be Daley’s godmother, and vice versa!

  5. June 5, 2010 1:55 am

    Leslie,

    He is adorable! I think it is great that you agreed to be godmother. When you don’t have a large extended family, choosing a godparent becomes problematic. Glad you are there for this family. And that baby – just makes my heart smile.

    Thanks for adding me to your blogroll.

  6. June 5, 2010 2:44 am

    You’ll be an amazing octogodmom! (love that term!) How could you not with his sweet-adorable-just-want-to-eat-you-up face!

  7. Sister permalink
    June 5, 2010 3:26 pm

    I’ve thought about godparents a lot recently, since one of my friends from work often talks about her grand-godchildren (her daughters’ godchildren), and her godsister (her mother’s goddaughter), etc. She keeps pictures of the entire village on her desk. And there might even be some godpets in the mix…

  8. June 5, 2010 5:19 pm

    Oh my – what a cutie! This is a great topic. We’re not religious so the idea of godparents sounds a little out of our realm but then again, what would happen to our little one should anything happen to us and that’s a hard one. The most responsible person I know who adores kids but does not want one of her own also lives far away, so does she still make a good candidate? My toddler’s 18-months and I still haven’t asked because even though she’s my best friend, I think it’s a heavy responsibility and I don’t want her to say yes just because she’s my friend. Sorry I’m rambling, but in essence, we still haven’t figured out what we will be doing about this yet.

    I do have a feeling you’ll be a great godmother though 🙂

  9. June 7, 2010 12:40 am

    Oh how I love this. We so struggled with whether to baptize our children and then when we decided yes, who to choose as Godparents. Siblings won out, but we were shy a Godmother for our second and so I asked one of my closest friends. I chose her because she had a made a difference in my life and really thought she would make a difference in my son’s life. I don’t know what the right or wrong definition is, but I do hope that she’ll influence him when he needs it, be a guiding support that he can can turn, perhaps when he feels he can’t turn to us, and know that someone else out there loves him in a very special way. I’m not a Godparent, not sure whether I ever will be. And I’m certain you’ll do it perfect!

    And that photo, melting over here!

  10. June 7, 2010 2:01 am

    I respect you and commend you for taking this responsibility seriously. I was asked by a friend if she could be the godparent to my son prior to his birth. I gave it serious thought and decided that her and her husband would be the best choice I could make. I thought I could really count on them. I took it very seriously. They did not. They took interest in him for the first six months. Then, the “new” wore off and they stopped visiting. They rarely even ask about him anymore. I am more than disappointed and do not consider them his godparents at all.

    Your godchild is lucky to have such a wonderful godmother.

  11. June 7, 2010 4:01 am

    I think that there should be a list of godparent expectations beforehand. So neither the parents nor the godparents end up hating each other. hypothetically of course.

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