The Case for Godparents

Who doesn’t want a fairy godmother? You know, someone who just waves her magic wand and makes sure you are looking exceptionally flawless and have the best. shoes. ever.

I remember when I was growing up that I had this secret wish, of all things, to have godparents. Alas, because I grew up in a Baptist family, naming godparents wasn’t a household tradition, but I thought it was so cool that some of my friends (and characters in the many books I read) had these kind of guardian angel grownups in their lives. I secretly wanted to convert myself to being Catholic or Methodist or Presbyterian—whatever denomination out there might give me the chance to get a godparent. I know, I was a weird kid. I also had giant glasses and fluffy bangs and re-read Anne of Green Gables on an almost-weekly basis. Don’t judge me.

I kind of thought of the godmother role as a parent who was so much cooler than your real parents. A godmother was the kind of person who bought you special gifts and listened to you when your parents were too busy or just—ugh—so parent-y. The kind of person who really was there to support you and be cool. I had a big extended family with many aunts and uncles, but I built up this role of a godparent in my mind to epic proportions, like, “If my godmother were here, she’d buy me that purse,” “if my godmother were here, she’d play Monopoly with me,” “you’re so mean—I’m going to go live with my godmother.” This fictional godmother was kind of like the companion narrative to the “I must be adopted and my real parents are royalty” story: the ultimate grown-up advocate in a world that’s not always fair and fun.

When I learned I was expecting a little girl, I was excited to have the opportunity to give her this special gift. I was going to be the cool mom (totally insert Amy Poehler from Mean Girls wink here) who gave her this person she could turn to at the moments she hated me most! I was totally going to bring someone into her life whom she would love more than me because they’d buy her frivolous, awesome presents and meanwhile I’d be all, “Eat your peas!” I was going to give her a godmother.

Seriously, though, I was really excited about the idea of having this extra advocate, this grownup my daughter could trust as a part of her life. I wasn’t sure how to approach the conversation at first because I knew, without a doubt, who the godmother should be, but I didn’t know what actual conventions came with the role, as opposed to the starry-eyed visions that I had built in my own mind.

But, here’s the great thing about godparents—to me, at least: You’re forging a unique relationship with someone you already care about a lot, so you can make it whatever you want. Many people establish the godparent relationship through a formal ceremony, often a christening, baptism, or naming ceremony. Prince George (my future son-in-law) has six godparents who were part of his christening ceremony. Some people may hold a secular ceremony or call their godparents “guardians” or another term that shows the mentorship role they expect them to take in their child’s lives. Some people simultaneously consider their child’s godparents to be the people who will take on guardianship of the child if they die while their child is underage. In some situations, the godparents may be family members, while in others, there may be no blood relationship at all.

When we were choosing our daughter’s godmother, there was no real debate over it. I knew I wanted to choose my best friend and former college roommate. Even though we don’t live in the same town or see each other as frequently as we’d like, we’ve maintained a bond over the years. She was the first person outside our family to come to the hospital to meet our little daughter. She’s been a confidante and sounding board over the years. And, she has an outlook on the world and travel that I am looking forward to my daughter absorbing to as she grows older. My daughter doesn’t have a godfather, and we didn’t name any of her aunts or uncles to these roles—not because we don’t love them, but because we wanted to give her this additional special relationship that really was just for her and “Aunt Amanda.”

Me with the best-friend-turned-godmother

When we talked to my friend about our desire to offer her this supporting role in our parenting tribe/entourage, there was no official ceremony. We didn’t have my daughter baptized (even though that was totally a missed opportunity to buy one of those fabulous christening gowns!) or even host a secular celebration. We just told our friend we loved her and wanted her to be an important part of our daughter’s life, and asked her to be the best godmother ever. No pressure.

A couple of years later, we know we made a great decision for our family. I love seeing my daughter get excited when Aunt Amanda is coming to visit (and, in unrelated news, how happy she was when she realized that “Amanda” rhymes with “panda.” That was an exciting day in the life of a two-year-old). I love watching them play and seeing my daughter show so much love and confidence in someone who is technically not a relative but whom we consider such a precious part of our family. I’m looking forward to having Amanda watch her grow and teach her things and encourage her dramatic side and, yes, maybe sometimes be the person she wants to run away to when her parents are terrible. More than anything, I love having this friend who knows me so well and has been such a valuable person to me—she was my bridesmaid, and we’ve shared sororities, bedrooms, majors, career paths—interact in a whole different way with my daughter. It’s just one amazing way we’ve been able to grow our family by including people we love and consider a family of the heart.

Godmothers: dressing babies stylishly since… well, the Cinderella era.

A godparent or a guardian or an honorary aunt/uncle—whatever you want to call it, I highly recommend it. You’re bringing one more person closer into your child’s life and ensuring there’s one more loving and caring adult interested in and committed to your child’s success.

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