Saturday, March 27, 2010

Godparent vs Oddparent

This post may prove to be my undoing, because I'm going to talk about one of those subjects that tends to get people very hot under the collar (and not because there is fresh baby spew there)... religion.

My beautiful friend, Emily, is becoming a Godmother in a few weeks time and allowed me to pick her brain about what exactly being a Godparent entails these days and how she thinks she'll respond to the challenge. The invitation to be little Evan's Godmother came as a bit of a shock to her since she was never christened and not religious in any way. So with her self professed heathen-ness, Emily sees her role as being a support person not only to the baby but the parents – something she would have done anyway even if not asked to be a yummy (God)mummy. Currently that support is shown in way of copious amounts of cuddles and baby talk. An excellent start I think. She won't be the sort dishing out unwanted advise and telling the parents that they're doing everything wrong, because as she points out, that's not a Godparent's job – that's the In-Law's job.

The role of Godparents seems to have changed to be more hands on in recent years. Or perhaps that is just my view since although I had plenty to do with my Godparents, it was more in their original roles as my great uncle and second cousin. Their status as 'the chosen ones' wasn't really mentioned. My childhood understanding of the reason for having them was if your parents passed away, you automatically got given to them. I remember thinking “Which one would I go and live with?” the bachelor uncle or the married with two kids cousin? I always felt a little bit bad after wondering, as if somehow thinking about it would make it happen (if you're wondering I chose the cousin, just because her kids had a Playstation – I'm that shallow).

These days when my friends have their children Christened the decision of who the Godparents will be has been known to cause massive rifts. Aunty Mary is upset that she wasn't chosen and your brother thinks that he'd make a much better stand in parent than Uncle Bob, despite his numerous convictions and drug habit. In terms of playing happy families, these decisions can have massive consequences. Perhaps that is why, in my own experience, its becoming more the norm to choose friends rather than family for this role. If you can't keep everyone in the family happy, don't choose any of them!

Friends who are Godparents themselves seem to take the role very seriously, and swell with pride when introducing the little munchkin - its not just their mate's kid but their Godchild. Because what better proof is there that someone thinks you're awesome? They've entrusted you to help raise their child or look after them if something terrible should happen.

The other option these days for the non-religious folk is to have a “Name Day” where you have a civil ceremony pretty similar to a Christening, just minus the man in the robes at the front with the holy water. You pick 'guardians' to take on the Godparent role and hey presto, you have a Name Day, complete with cake. But I don't see myself going down that road either – to me it screams “I want you to give me presents”. Because the people you would invite to one of these celebrations would normally be your closest friends and family, the same ones who a few weeks earlier probably gave you a little something for the baby's birth. How many rattles does one child need after all?

After all that though, I'm not bestowing that honour on anyone. Like the delightful Emily, I too am a heathen (doomed to spend eternity in purgatory according to my Catholic upbringing) and don't want to have Tricky baptised in to a system that I don't support. I'm attracted to the concept of adults making their own decisions about faith, so when Tricky is old enough to understand the complexities of religion, he can decide for himself what path to follow.

Having a pretty un-religious family this isn't going to cause any problems. I'm not too sure what I'd do if I had very traditional In-Laws that demanded their grandchild follow the way of the church. Would I fight it or just go with the flow for the sake of peace and unity? I'd like to think I'm feisty enough to stand up for what I believe in... but I'm so open to suggestion that if I was presented with a super cute Christening outfit for Tricky I'd probably at the church steps in no time. Again, yes, I'm that shallow.

The only problem I can foresee with the 'choose your own adventure' path is that Tricky will join some bizarre religious cult where you can only wear fuchsia and have to shave the left side of your head. That would make such a lovely addition to family holiday events, I'm sure. "Could you pass the salt please Lord Tricky of the Holy Fuchsia Order?"

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