My golden rule for choosing a godparent

I’m not normally one for dispensing parenting advice. I started The Kids Are All Right because I had more questions than answers. But I do know how to choose an awesome godparent.

The traditional godparent

Growing up Catholic, my siblings and I understood our godparents’ role was to ensure we were raised in accordance with our faith. It may have been my mother’s idea of a joke, but she also said our godparents would look after us if anything, God forbid, should happen to our own parents. This fuelled years of teasing and angst over who we’d be sent to live with if it came to that. In the end, apart from receiving cards when we made our First Holy Communion and Confirmation, we didn’t have much to do with our godparents and mercifully our own parents survived, so there was no splitting up of four orphaned children.

The Claytons godparent

I’ve not been asked to be a godparent exactly, but a very close friend who had gone through an acrimonious divorce asked myself and two others to be “guardians” (her own term, not the legal kind) of her children. Our role was to keep her values and memory alive with her children if she was no longer here and they were living with their father. The darling little girl I was appointed a “guardian” of is now 14. I’ve never been sure of what my role should be in the meantime, but by godparent standards I’ve probably been a terrible disappointment. However, I think about her frequently and love hearing how she is going at school and in her life.

The awesome godparent

Now a lapsed Catholic (that is what we call a godparent fail, folks), I had no intention of appointing a godparent when my first child was born in 1998. It was my agnostic partner who prompted it. He had an old friend who’d been a great comfort and inspiration in his past, and he wanted to make him our daughter’s godfather. He suggested I choose a godmother. Holy mother of god, a godmother? So, I thought of all my friends whose qualities of character were like mine, who were following a similar path to me, and who I knew would be part of our daily lives for years to come. Then I thought of someone who was none of those things and realised she was perfect.

Laura BrownLaura was a newish friend who had gone to the same university as me but was a bit younger, so I’d met her later through mutual friends. I had liked her instantly. She had smarts, sass, ambition and talent in spades. She was Ms Personality; I was quieter. She was very stylish; I was not. I was about to have a baby; she was about to have a life. She wasn’t going to stick around for long, because her dreams were too big. When I asked her to be my baby’s godmother, she was already travelling and working on the other side of the world.

I guess I could see that by having a baby, my own dreams of travelling and working abroad would remain unfulfilled, and the path ahead appeared to be clear and predictable. I didn’t want a godparent who would tread the same road. I wanted someone who would expose my daughter to completely different things, and show her what another kind of life looked like.

I am so grateful that Laura not only accepted her role as godparent, but went out and bought the whole fairy godmother outfit. She’s been an amazing influence on my daughter and they have a special relationship that Laura has nurtured through letters and emails when she is away, and with exceptional efforts to get together when she is in the country. Gifts were thoughtfully chosen to reflect my daughter’s interests, or they were inspiring mementos from Laura’s exciting work.  The relationship between my daughter and her godmother is entirely independent of my own with either of them. I’ve realised it is very special to be so special to someone who is not your relative.

So, if I may offer one piece of advice for anyone choosing a godparent for their child, it’s this:

Choose someone not like you.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that I just got lucky.

Here is Laura, being someone not like me.

Have you had to choose a godparent? How did that work out for you?

 

Comments

  1. Laura Brown says:

    Rachel Hynes, I love you. xx

  2. Great article, great Godmother.

  3. We made some bad choices with godparents first time around, but with child #2 we chose a 7 year old friend for the job. Best decision ever! He is the most attentive godparent I’ve ever seen and has so much patience with my son. He looks out for him and has really taken his role on board.
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    • Thekids says:

      Wow, that’s impressive. I am conscious of imposing a burden on someone, but it’s really nice when they make it look like they enjoy it 🙂

  4. Oh God I’m a crappy Godmother, better go ring the Godchildren.
    Janine Fitzpatrick recently posted..Trapped in Re-runsMy Profile

  5. A great post, Laura sounds terrific!
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  6. We’re not religions so got to escape this minefield! I think it must be a tough decision.
    Catherine Rodie Blagg @CoTaaB recently posted..(Love) another birth story – Part 1My Profile

  7. Great post. We’re not baptising our kids, but the people we’d probably choose if we were going to are pretty much doing the role anyway. That’s what friends do, I guess!
    Emily recently posted..Most people are inherently sensibleMy Profile

  8. We didn’t even get married so ‘godparents’ was never an option. I do like the idea of something though but my husb and I have never been able to agree on who we’d choose so our Mr 3.5 and Mr 1.5. I have to say, this post is brilliant. I always thought about it in terms of someone like me who’d provide a life similar to what I can do but I think picking someone so different is great.
    Kate @ Our Little Sins recently posted..day 50 + day 51 | 100 Pantone postcards project … and a giveawayMy Profile

    • Thekids says:

      I wasn’t married either! We just called them godparents for want of a better term. And I haven’t done it for number 2 and 3 children. They’ll just have to do without. Thanks for the feedback – I was surprised that someone so different turned out to be “the one” too.

  9. Oh, I love your message here, Rachel!
    My best friend is completely unlike me. And although she has been prone to drive me bonkers, I would completely entrust my children with her as their god mother.
    “I was about to have a baby; she was about to have a life” – love that line.
    A very special friendship you have there with Laura. And a beautiful relationship she has with your daughter.x
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    • Thekids says:

      I’m glad you like that line Grace. I was a bit worried it might sound like I think having a baby isn’t much of a life, but it was how I felt at the time. x

  10. My husband’s Italian catholic so there was no escaping the baptism rituals! We’re both fortunate to have multiple siblings though and really, all of them are such wonderful aunts/uncles I almost forget which ones are the godparents! Sounds like Laura has a lovely relationship with your daughter x
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  11. We never had a god parent for our children (probably because we aren’t reallt religious) but I do refer my best freind as being the goddess parent to my childen. She is very into goddesses so the term suits her perfectly.
    Penny recently posted..Children’s and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Conference 2012My Profile

  12. I’ve had to choose godparents 3 times now, and always wondered what is the best justification for choosing someone. I love your theory! If only I could UNchoose some and reappoint based on the prerequisite that they aren’t like me… 😉
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  13. I have never been asked to be a Godmother. I wonder why? Hmmm. I am disappointed that my kids Godparents aren’t more in their lives. I chose family because I figured they would always be there. But that hasn’t worked either … ho hum …
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