Thursday, July 29, 2010

Being a Godparent

I have an Auntie Myra, an Auntie Lorraine, and an Uncle Kelvin. They
are my godparents, and we turned up at their houses at Christmas to
catch up, and funny cards and cute presents appeared from them in the
post for birthdays.

I knew that my godparents were special to me, because when my sisters
were baptised, they got different ones. It wasn't until my sister's
godparents had their own children, and asked my parents to be
godparents that I connected this intricate family web.

In our house the children of a godparent, and our parent's godchildren
had become our god siblings. A flowing extended family of lots of
ages. We wouldn't see them often, but they were still part of the
fabric of our lives, something special and apart from the normal
nuclear family As a child, I grew up with these random children called
"god sisters" or "god brothers" turning up at our house semi annually
or coming on days out at National Trust houses, holidays at each
others houses.

Growing up in a church attending family, I watched many other children
get baptised as part of the regular weekly service, and each time a
set of these godparents would pop up, agreeing to be reponsible for
the spiritual upbringing of the child in question. In days gone by
there was an expectation that godparents would take in their
godchildren should anything dreadful happen to the parents.

I think that actually parents often choose to be godparents the
friends that they want to bring closer into their family. I know that
my dad doesn't keep in touch with many of his university friends, but
Uncle Kelvin being my godparent means they share one more bond and do
end up catching up at least once a year. Some people seem to pick the
most spiritual people they know, in order to bring a touch of the
religious to their otherwise social only gathering.

Whatever the reasons, one of the best things about having godparents
is that they are as mentioned before, special and individual to the
child and an adult apart from their parents but involved in their
lives. You won't find many godparents testing their under 10
godchildren on their prayers these days, but providing spiritual
guidance and ensuring they stay away from the dark of this world takes
many forms.

Having someone you don't have to share, who you can mark out as yours
helps with a child's sense of self esteem. I am worthy enough to own
the rights to bend this person's ear anytime. As for keeping
children's lives in the light of this world, this would seem to come
into its own in the teenage years. My god parents helped me find work
experience placements, had me come to stay with them, introduced me to
the delights of Star Wars and Blade Runner, and listened to the angsty
ramblings of a confused teenage girl. They took me out to dinner when
I was a starving student and helped me move house. A godparent is in
an excellent person to offer grown up advice away from prying parental
ears on a range of slightly delicate topics too I think.

Now old enough to be a grown up myself, I find myself the proud
godmother of two small boys. One is my youngest cousin, the other the
child of a university friend. When I was asked to be a godparent, I
researched to see what my responibilities would be. There doesn't seem
to be any biblical basis for having godparents, another one of these
traditions in Christianity like candles at Christmas. Nevertheless, as
a practicing Christian, I pray for them regularly, and as they get
older I wil try and make myself approachable so they can ask me any
difficult questions they can't ask their parents, and occasionally
whisk them away for special days out.

Oh and remember to send the obligatory Christmas and Birthday presents.

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