It has finally happened.
The thing I have been anticipating for years, but was pretty sure wouldn’t happen until one or the other of my siblings got married and had children, which, no offense to them, was not exactly like IMMEDIATELY UPON US, so I thought I had a minimum of like five more years to wait, has happened.
I am somebody’s godmother.
I KNOW! Craziness.
Here’s how it happened.
My friend Kim, who I have known since I was her intern in college, and my “desk” was the file cabinet right next to her desk (which was an ACTUAL desk), has a nephew named Hayden. Most of their family isn’t Catholic, so their options for godparents were limited. Kim’s sister Liz – Hayden’s mom – is a friend of mine too, and was surprisingly receptive when Kim proposed me as a potential godmother. I say “surprising” because, A) if Liz and Craig die in a fiery car wreck, I am in charge of Hayden’s immortal soul, and B) I am the kind of person who can barely keep plants alive. I had a betta fish named Leonard Cohen for about three years, until he died, gruesomely, from dropsy – or so sayeth bettafishdiseases.com, anyway. That’s as close as I’ve come, at the ripe old age of 27, to anything with the word “parent” in the title.
This is actually fine with me. A dramatic and ever-growing roster of my friends and relations – many quite significantly younger than me – are getting married, or having kids, or both, or both in the opposite order. And obviously, since I’m a youth minister, I like kids. Love them. Think they’re great. Don’t particularly want my own – at least, not right now. To me, this is not a problem. But I’m 27 – almost 28, actually – and it’s hard not to feel like the world thinks there’s something wrong with me that I’m not already jonesing to have nine kids. Despite the fact that the median age for women to have their first child increases as life expectancies increase, and despite the fact that there is a statistically significant increase in the academic achievement of children whose mothers had them after the age of 30, and despite the fact that when a woman has children is absolutely no one’s freaking business except her and her spouse/partner’s – it’s still hard not to feel like the world thinks I’m somehow defective. Or maybe it’s not The World so much as my world, and the people I’m surrounded by. My sister and I have a fleet of girl cousins in their 20’s and 30’s, and nearly all of them are married and/or have kids. There is no way for a childless single woman to fully participate in Mom Conversations. It is just not possible. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else, and I have absolutely no judgment or criticism towards those women for whom being a wife and mom is the ultimate goal in life. And I have incredible admiration for those women, like my cousins, who are deeply committed wives and mothers while also juggling careers. They are thousands of times more together than me, which is part of why it’s good that they have kids and I don’t. I simply do not have that kind of time-management skills. I would die. My head would explode. So kudos to them, seriously.
So, yeah. I’m not going to be an actual parent anytime soon. But being a godparent, like being an aunt, is extremely appealing to me. Here’s why.
1) You have absolutely no financial responsibility for the child, except for buying awesome presents.
2) You will almost never have to actually discipline the child or lay down annoying rules – it will not be you that has to have the Curfew Conversation or the Increase-My-Allowance Conversation or the Eat-Your-Vegetables Conversation.
3) However, if you do your job right, you WILL get to be the person who gives advice they can’t (or won’t) ask their parents about. I look forward to my brother and sister having daughters so I can do all the greatest hits like the Don’t-Date-Guys-With-Motorcycles Conversation (“Yes, I know Grandpa Ken has one, but he is not an idiot college boy”) or the Majoring-In-Something-“Practical”-Is-Wildly-Overrated Conversation. And if they have sons, I can be Cool Aunt Who Explains To You What Women Are Actually Thinking. Plus, with godparenting, there’s the added advantage of being the designated Person You Ask About Catholic Stuff, which is one of the best parts of my youth ministry job.
4) Hayden is a kid, not a baby, which means I can start doing the fun stuff – i.e. “Let’s talk about Jesus so I can correct any misconceptions you might have picked up from your Sunday School teachers!” – right away, instead of having to wait until he was old enough to have some concept of God.
It’s a really nice feeling to have someone who is a loving, protective parent decide that, upon careful consideration, you are worthy of being in a position of some kind of guidance in their child’s life. Particularly when you’re me – a person who never makes her bed and has been known to BUY NEW CLOTHES because the prospect of doing laundry was simply too burdensome; who will tell you that her favorite song is “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, when in fact that song is a respectable second but the first prize must go to “Talk Dirty To Me” by Poison; who is closer to 30 than 20 but has never had a driver’s license or a real credit card; and who, despite a pricey liberal arts college education, can happily spend an entire day watching a VH1 marathon of “America’s Next Top Model.” If you had to apply to an outside organization for the privilege of being someone’s godparent, I’m pretty convinced I would not pass.
So in a way, just like with everything in life, this whole godparent thing is a matter of faith. Liz has faith that I’m a person who has what it takes to be responsible for one piece of her son’s life – guiding him in his spiritual growth. I’m not in charge of his eating habits, or making sure he’s vaccinated, or helping him with his homework, or buying his clothes. I have one small piece. But within that small piece there are huge, daunting challenges. I have to have faith that I’ll be able to answer Hayden’s questions, to be there for him all his life, to live as an adult Catholic knowing that at least one person is directly looking to me as a model for how adult Catholics live. We all have to have faith in each other. That’s how this stuff works.
And maybe, if I can handle explaining Jesus to a little kid, then all the stuff about homework and vegetables will be a little easier.
Someday. When I get to it. NOT RIGHT NOW.