When my brother and his wife asked me to be a godparent to their daughter—well, it was a big deal. I felt honored. And also terrified. Not to mention excited, humbled, overjoyed, overwhelmed and daunted. I knew I wanted to do a good job, to live up to the honor I’d been given, and to make her life better. I just didn’t know how.
Today, eighteen years later, I can tell you that being a godparent is awesome. Like from-the-actual-dictionary awesome, in the sense of inspiring awe, reverence and fear. Whether you’re new to this, or just looking to put a little more into your role, you’ve probably got a similar feeling about it. But don’t worry…I can now officially say that I know what it takes to be a godparent, and today I’ll share a little of my wisdom.
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Here are a few helpful hints from a seasoned godparent.
Fair warning: The advice you are about to read comes from the heart, but it’s the heart of a Catholic kid who broke into the storeroom at church to drink the communion wine and went skinny-dipping during youth group camping trips. Take it with a grain of salt and 10 Hail Marys.
Understand your role
A godparent’s role depends greatly on the expectations of everybody involved. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your godchild’s parents about their expectations. In some cultures, religions and families, a godparent plays a larger role than in others. Take the time to get clarity upfront. Also, remember that your role may change over time and/or with the age of the godchild, which leads me to my second suggestion…
Stay connected in ways that make sense
When my godchild was younger, we lived in the same city. Her parents and I decided we would have one day a week that was just ours. I would pick her up from school every Wednesday, and we would spend time together, do homework, and have dinner. Now that we live in different cities and she’s a teenager (and technically an adult), we stay in touch via text, and I send her cards in the mail several times a month.
Communicating with a teenager is different from communicating with a toddler. As your godchild grows and changes, and as life takes you different places, the ways you stay in touch will, too.
Share from the heart
I am not a churchy person, or even particularly religious anymore, but I still have ideas, philosophies, and opinions about morals, values, and spirituality. I feel comfortable sharing these concepts with my goddaughter, and I think it gives her my perspective about a higher power, right and wrong, and other big notions.
When you share things with your godchild, do so as genuinely as you know how. For me, it boils down to just being myself, speaking from the heart, and staying positive.
Try to share things that are important to you and that help you understand yourself and the world more clearly. For me, this often includes books, authors, movies, music, articles, poems, stories, shows, quotes, podcasts, and other things I can either mention in passing or simply keep track of so I can share it at a later time.
Accept and nurture
Being a godparent means loving your godchild unconditionally. This means accepting her exactly as she is, and loving her for both who she is now and who she will become.
I want to show her I know her and don’t judge her. I want her to understand that I am here for her, no matter what, to help guide and lead her toward the best version of herself. I want her to be able to come to me with good news, bad news, her proudest moments, and her most difficult problems. I want to do my best to help her celebrate victories and navigate difficulties.
My goddaughter just turned 18 and she is getting ready to go away to college (with a full scholarship). I hope my influence has benefitted her and that she takes a little part of me with her wherever she goes. Maybe some of the things she’s learned from me will positively affect her choices and the way she treats people.
At least, that’s what I pray for.