In the very earliest years of Christianity a godparent acted as a sponsor for the child or adult at his or her baptism and provided long-term spiritual guidance to the child.Traditionally, a child has three godparents: a boy has two godfathers and one godmother and a girl has two godmothers and one godfather.
In the modern world however, it can be confusing to know what exactly a godparent’s obligations and expectations are. Most godparents these days are neither spiritual nor parental, and in some cases it is merely a title with little substance.
A well-known (mythical) example of a godmother in popular culture is the fairy godmother in Cinderella. After losing her father and mistreated by her stepmother, it is the fairy godmother that swoops in with her wand to save the day.
The notion that the godparent would assume full parental responsibility if something should happen to the parents is a popular misconception. Legal guardianship is in fact something entirely different and we should not confuse the two. The responsibilities for godparents have been blurred throughout the years, which is why for outsiders; the role of being a godparent can often seem daunting.
If you’re not religious and never see the child however, is it a slightly outdated tradition? So many children these days however still have at least two godparents. My daughter Olympia has four and the boys between six and eight! Every family is different. Some Godparents never see the child, but perhaps send the occasional card in the post. In my family the role of a Godparent should be taken seriously whether they are a family member or friend.
The modern godparent is an additional parental figure, and an extended member of the family. They are usually the parent’s friends instead of family members, because an Aunt for example, already has a ‘special’ role. They provide a fresh, loving perspective and can bring new skills, experience or even connections to the mix. Most importantly, if relationships with parents become strained, the godparent is someone who will be there for the child.
For the godparent it’s not only a privilege, but it can also be a way for parents to keep in touch with their friends, often difficult when starting a family of their own. Moreover, in such a career driven generation, women and men are having babies much later on, so perhaps being a Godparent is a nice way to be connected to family life and gain invaluable experience before the real thing.
So if you’re chosen to be a godparent, here are some top tips from my Good God-parenting Guide:
The Essentials (T.P.C)
♥ Spending quality time plays an essential role in the good god-parenting mix, and is the very foundation of your relationship with them. You don’t want to seem like the stranger who always sends cards in the post.
♥ Play is so important in a child’s development. When you spend quality time with them, play games with them, run around the garden with them or take them to the park. This will secure your place as the fun godparent and this will also give the parents a well-needed break.
♥ When they’re old enough, send emails/text messages. This will encourage them to contact you independently from their parents. Speak to them as a grown-up and don’t patronise them. Remember, you can be their friend and mentor for life.
The Special Occasions
♥ A godparent must never, ever, forget their birthday. This is one of the most important days of their childhood lives so forgetting this could greatly impede upon your good god-parenting progress.
♥ Send a card and perhaps an inexpensive present. You don’t have to shell out a fortune for them to like you. Remember they don’t care about the cost, just as long as it’s relevant.
♥ Call them! Timing if everything. Get in there early along with the other important callers; don’t leave it until late in the evening.
♥ If you can, take them out for a birthday lunch/fun day out the following week. This will allow you to spend some quality time so you can build up your own rapport with them.
♥ Remember the key word for this occasion is generosity. Perhaps even arrange a festive outing to the Christmas markets ahead of the big day. The trick is so be as excited as they are about it, because chances are their parents would have had enough of Christmas already.
A godchild is for life, not just for Christmas!