March 5, 2006

What's A Godparent Expected To Do, And How Do You Pick One?

Godparents are not a part of the Mormon doctrine or culture, and they existed largely in books or in shadows for me. Friends had them, but it wasn't clear to me what they did besides maybe throw in an extra gift at Christmas or help score a summer internship.

Nevertheless, when my wife was pregnant, she felt very strongly about asking one of her closest friends to be the kid's godmother in all but a christening/ceremonial sense. Given theirlifelong closeness, the choice of person was a natural/obvious/almost only one. I didn't have anyone I felt so strongly about to ask to be a godfather, so I didn't, and our kid is now being raised in a single godparent family.

I recently heard that in some cultures, the tradition is to ask the guy you're paid to make out with on film to be your kid's godfather. And then it occurred to me that in Marc Forster's movie Everything Put Together, the mom got invited to be a godmother, then when her grief over losing her baby freaked her friends out, she got uninvited and replaced and [well, I won't ruin the story for you]. And THEN, in her documentary, didn't that high school friend of Madonna's come visit her hotel and ask out of the blue to be her kids' godmother, and Madonna refused?

So basically, unless someone can explain how they approach the whole godparent thing, and what it entails for you, I'm gonna be stuck learning about this stuff from freakin' Madonna and Brokeback Mountain. You see my dilemma here...


I am my nephew's godfather... as I understand it, the godparents are responsible for the child's religious upbringing or somesuch.

I've done nothing of the sort for my nephew.

Basically, I just stood there at the christening.

As we are dirty horrible atheists, we chose "god"parents slightly differently and we spoke to them about their role.

We chose "mentors" of each sex for my son when he was born. One was a close friend for whose child I fill the same role and one was my husbands oldest and dearest friend. And, while the female of the pair is not very involved in my son's life, her male counterpart is very serious about the entire thing.

We explained to Paul that we wanted him to be the guy my son, Kieran, could grow up having a close relationship with. We wanted our son to go to him when he felt he couldn't come to us for advice or guidance. Paul should consider it his duty to teach Kieran things, to make Kieran feel special. Ultimately, his role would be as a special and loving uncle.

For most of Kieran's life, Paul and his wife have lived first in Argentina and now in Taiwan (we're in Ontario). Paul regularly calls and talks exclusively to Kieran (now nearly 3y) and writes long letters exclusively to Kieran. When he is physically here, he leaves behind small gifts we can give Kieran at the appropriate times in his name.

I don't believe in god, though I do often use the term godfather because there is a meaning in that term that everyone gets that wouldn't be adequately conveyed by mentor. But, it is essentially a mentor's job.

Mentoring was traditionally and officially in a religious capacity, but in the modern world, I think the idea of a life mentor is a good one. They need not be involved in a daily or even monthly way in your life or the life of your child, but they should participate with your child regularly (Paul contacts Kieran semi monthly or quarterly, which is about how often we'd see him if he lived in the province).

Well, the religious upbringing and all, for sure.

But also, if something should happen to you and your partner, the godparents are responsible for making sure the kid grows up okay.

I thought that's what designating guardians in our will was for..?

Our son has only a godmother too. We wanted one to have mainly in the traditional sense minus the whole ceremonial sense (because our non-denominational faith doesn't really have one...) She's a close friend of mine, someone I really respect. I guess you just do whatever you want nowadays...?

We're Catholic, and for us, godparents are responsible NOT for raising the kid if anything happens to the parents (that would indeed be the task of the legal guardian) but to ensure that the godchild leads a faithful life.

This is not only if the parents die, but also if they fail to instruct their child in the faith. How the godparent is supposed to step in when that happens (secret meetings?) I do not know. But that was drummed into my sister good and hard when she sponsored our son.

As for the history - we were told that in the beginning of the Catholic Church, most baptisms were done on adults. For those done on children, a "sponsor" was chosen to make the profession of faith for the unwitting child, who was ostensibly unable to do so for themselves. (As for waiting until the child could make that decision for themselves - well, that's not really our way.)

For Greek Orthodox types, the Godfather or Godmother is responsible for the spiritual upbringing of the child. The person that you choose must be trusted to teach the faith to the child, to bring him/her to church regularly, and to be a part of all of the child's spiritual milestones i.e. Baptism, communions, Easter celebrations, wedding, etc.

Traditionally, the Godfather of the first child is also the best man at the wedding, and when the time comes for Baptism, the Godfather also must choose the name for the child, although this part of the tradition is now rarely followed.

Usually, there is only one Godparent, and that person's spouse becomes the other Godparent. However, many couples are now choosing two Godparents who may or not be related i.e. one is a friend of the mother, and one a friend of the father.

hi im actually wondering whats a godparent do
im 17 n my best friend just had a girl n i don't have a clue what i do as a god mother can u tell me

I am 46 and have 4 x Godparents. I am exceedingly desperately ill & too many huge, numerous & varied "life challenges", which alongised having 19 back op's has resulted in horrendous month on month new permanet health probs, all deteriorating also month on month. Since a teenager I have heard from all 3 of my 4 god parents - though none stood by me or helped/even directly asked me how I was following any of these op's. It did however, prove to me what the word "family" truly means. I am currently in such financial difficulty and now crtitically ill. I am power of Attorney over a 94 yr GREAT AUNTIE & was also over my beloved Great Uncle, who passed away in April 2013. This of course means I means there is a "generation" in between; one family member and her husband being practising Christians. All of them, with how ill I am now, stand every good chance of out living me. I was Christened as it was believed, if anything happened to me, or them, my welfare & well being/health etc would be "overseen" should it ever get that critical! It is that critical. I am dealing with numerous solicitors, inc.Power of Attorney, Executor of an Estate, a Solicitor who had to serve injunctions to protect me & my children/a conveyancing Sol & a divorce Sol! The ONLY body part that is NOT seriously ill, is now JUST my larynx. Admist this I cannot sell up & downgrade as the house I reside in is jointly owned. I am now "dangerously low anaemic" & not responded to a "2 wk course of iron tablets" 5 x months on! I forgo eating to provide for my 15yr old son (WHO HAS 5 X GOD PARENTS). Since he was christened at a few months old, only ONE Godparent has loyally stood by his side; now as my son's health, well being (& as his Mother's heamth, aka me) deteriorates, along with him struggling with a midler form of Post Traumatic stress disorder. I am one of life's survivors and will find a way somehow to conquer all these "challenges". What would have been wonderful & show recognition of being a Godparent, would have been for any of my 4 godparents (one who is Christian) and one of any 5 of my son's Godparent's (one of who is Christian) to even just ring one of us.
Approx 13 yrs ago I found myself leaning towards the philosophies of Buddhism (& find refreshing the fact Buddhists respects all cultures and ALL religions).
I wanted my Son's to have God parents as feel it is a privilege that shoukd not be entered into lightly and is a lifetime commitment. I wanted them blessed in the eyes of God, and the knowledge that if "should anything happen to me, both my Son's who have 9 x Godparents between them (4 & 5 respectively) someone would "look out for them). My 18yr old has 1 of 4 present in his life. My youngest son has now none of 5 in contact with him. I have occasionally one of 4. I am therefore far from disrespecting Christianity; but when both my 15 yr old son & I are so ill, at a loss to understand, how we dont hear feom them? Why has a wonderful, loving, caring, loyal & selfless innocent minor not now got anyone looking out for him?
Also, is it possible to get son & myself re-christened?

that's a very intense and extensive comment, I hope you and your family make it through your obviously difficult situation alright.

Meanwhile, from the fact that you posted it on a somewhat random blog, I'm guessing that you don't have much chance to discuss these kinds of burdens with others very often. Or maybe it's the opposite, that you lay out every difficult detail to everyone every chance you get. I'll take advantage of the fact that we're complete strangers to point out that this is not usually considered typical of a social, or even family, relationship. People might find it overwhelming, or discomforting, or off-putting. This might be unfair, and it might seem callous to you. But it's also reality. Maybe they just don't know what to do or say, or they feel powerless to help, so they come to avoid contact. If this is the kind of response they come to expect when they ask, "How are you?" they might just stop asking.

I know this response firsthand; I have it whenever I say hi to a particular friend who is so overwhelmed with his problems of health and loneliness that he literally cannot stop talking about the minute complications of every single medication, every slight he suffered from every person he saw during the week while running errands, and every person who didn't call him or help him in some way. I keep checking on him and try to maintain typical conversations anyway, but I can understand why some people give up.

Maybe this is similar to how your family and godparents' situations are. Maybe there's something small you can do to reach out to them, not for help, necessarily, but just to say hi. To see how they are. Maybe not, I don't know. Maybe with so many godparents, no one of them feels the particular urgency to feel personally responsible, or even connected, to your family. In which case, you should probably dial back your expectations, and try to have a less intense, less intimate relationship, like you would with a neighbor, or someone you knew in school a while back. And then look elsewhere for the kind of relationships or support you need at this time.

Just a few thoughts, I hope they're at all useful, even to consider or reflect on. And again, best wishes to you and your family.

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