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I grew up very close with my godparents and they've always had a strong presence in my life, especially my madrina. My godmother (my mother's friend since childhood) was the only person outside of the family we were allowed to stay with. We spent holidays together, we vacationed together, and our families often felt like one.
My godparents were truly my parents' compadres. It was a shared responsibility. There was a sense of belonging and safety that I felt with my godparents. I knew that they would always be there.
When I became a mother, I knew I wanted my child to have that same connection. My husband and I don't belong to any church and we are no longer practicing Catholics. But it was important to me — and my mother — that my son be baptized. I know all about the religious responsibility of the godparent. But I believe it's so much more. It wasn't about the religion so much as securing that relationship and guidance.
I did what most people do when selecting godparents and picked the people closest to me. But that was nine years ago, and our lives have dramatically changed. Having a kid with autism, I always think about who will step up and take care of Norrin if we are no longer around. And if I had to choose my son's godparents again today, I doubt I would make the same choices.
1. Do they want kids? How do they feel about children?
Having children is a choice and not every person wants that responsibility. However that doesn't mean that if a person doesn't want kids that they won't make a good role model for your child; it's just another layer to think about. If someone doesn't have or want kids, their attitude about child-rearing may be different from yours. And if someone doesn't want kids, will they make themselves available for yours? Sometimes friends agree to something to avoid hurt feelings.
2. What do you expect from a godparent?
Be clear about expectations. Selecting godparents is a huge responsibility and one worthy of an honest dialogue. Being open about expectations can avoid disappointment later. And give the person you ask some time to consider if it's a role they want to take on.
3. Think location, location, location.
In this digital age, it doesn't matter where the godparent lives, but it's nice to have someone within close range. Yes, relationships can develop via phone, text and Skype, but there's nothing like that face-to-face connection to build a strong bond.
4. How well do they know your children?
Think about how much time your perspective godparent has spent around your child. Do they make an effort to spend time with your child? Are they comfortable staying with your child if you're not present? Do they understand your child's capabilities or habits?
5. What is their level of commitment?
As the parent, you are committed to your child. Think back to your expectations and the level of involvement you want the godparent to have with your child. Being a godparent goes beyond showing up for holidays and birthdays. Raising a child takes a village. The people you choose to be your compadres need to understand they're critical members and they'll want to be a part of your parenting journey.