There’s nothing quite like the first time one of your close friends announces that they’re having a baby. Adulthood gets real when you and your peers start welcoming an entire new generation of human beings. This will permanently change your friendships, bringing both new challenges and new opportunities to keep living life alongside the people who mean the most to you.
At some point, one of your friends or siblings may ask you to serve as a godparent for their child. This is a big honor, one that affirms their desire to include you in their drastically changed lives. It invites you, too, to step into adulthood in a new way. After all, godparents are a lifelong relationship — commitments don’t get much bigger than this!
As a godparent, you promise to help the parents raise their child in the faith. Easy enough on paper, but what does that really look like in the real day-to-day stuff of life? Different families have different expectations, so talk with your godchild’s parents about what they’re hoping this relationship will look like, but feel free to make the role your own, too. To get the conversation started, here are a few ideas.
Pray for them
Throughout their lives, your godchild should know that they can count on your prayers. Start including them now — wherever, whenever, however you pray. This might mean weekly intercession when you attend Mass or lighting a candle for them whenever you’re visiting a new church.
Also think about ways you can tell your godchild you’re praying for them, and ways to ask for any specific prayer requests. At first, this will mean checking in with the parents, who, as they figure out this whole parenting thing, will probably appreciate your prayers more than you know.
Give nurturing gifts
When kids are kids, favorite aunts and uncles are made in the gifts received at birthdays and Christmases. Is it fair? Maybe not. But since gifts are important to small people, use gift-giving opportunities to build your relationship with your godchild.
As godparent, think about ways your gifts can nourish your godchild in their growth in faith. When your godchild is very young, they (and, mostly, their parents) will appreciate gifts that can keep them occupied during Mass while still inviting them to think about the sacred things going on there. My kids (ages 3 and 10 months) have favorite Mass toys from AlmondRod Toys, Chews Life, and Shining Light Dolls.
Not all your gifts need to be explicitly religious, but think about how they might be nourishing. As your godchild grows, check in with them about their interests. Choose thoughtful books. Find beautiful art for their spaces.
And try to think of gifts as relationship-building. Can you share something of yourself through these gifts? Do you have any crafty talents you could use to make heirlooms? Experience gifts (event tickets, zoo memberships) are always appreciated, and if it’s an experience they can share with you, all the better.
To go along with your gift-giving, make sure you yourself are available for relationship. Be there for your godchild. If you live in town, attend sports events or recitals when you can. Come to birthday parties. Offer to help with birthday parties. If you live far away, make a point to check in regularly (little kids love FaceTime!) Try to make a point of visiting when you can.
Think about starting traditions with your godchild. As godparent, the anniversary of their baptism has the potential to be your day with them. Consider taking them out for a special treat or activity. To connect to their baptism, thinkg about working in a water-based activity: visit a pool or splash pad, walk by a river or fountain, maybe just give him or her some fun bubble bath — anything to help your godchild experience the power and beauty and realness of water.
As important as physical gifts can be to a child, the gift of your time and attention is even more valuable and will have a lasting impact. Whatever you’re able to do, just continue to be mindful of your godchild, finding ways to include them. This will change as they grow up, so be continually brainstorming so that you can be present to them in developmentally appropriate ways.
This might seem like a lot, but remember that none of this is required. Try different things on, keep what works, and leave behind what doesn’t. You have a whole lifetime to figure out this new relationship, so have fun with it!