Do you find yourself excitedly wandering in the kids’ section of the department store, window shopping and looking for future gift ideas for your nieces and nephews? Do you remember their birthdays and most favorite things like they’re written at the back of your hand (sometimes better than their parents)? Do you often remind your spouse, brother or boyfriend about getting his godchild an appropriate token for an upcoming birthday? Well, then, these are signs that prove you are a doting tita or ninang at heart.
Being a godparent can be wonderful, especially if you enjoy being around kids, but you have to understand the function, privilege and value of your role. Kids grow up too, and soon you will realize that god parenting -- if taken as it should-- goes beyond the cool presents on birthdays and Christmases, and beyond the somewhat challenging game of a ninang or ninong’s attempt at winning a child’s affection, admiration and alliance.
There are friendships reinforced at baptisms. This can be traced to Hispanic families which usually choose compadres and comadres (essentially co-parents) from their trusted friends to become the god parents of their child. Once this invitation to become a god parent is accepted, the parents of the child and the god parents are now considered “god sibs” or god siblings. The traditional concept of god parenting made the co-parents equally responsible for ensuring the child’s healthy upbringing according to the child’s religion. This also made them the child’s guardians should s/he be orphaned. It is no wonder why parents of Filipino married couples often call each other comadre and compadre.
In modern understanding; however, a god parent need not be of the same religion as the child; neither is the god parent’s influence limited to the religious education of the child or inaanak. As the bond between the child’s parents and god parents is cemented, the role of guardianship is understood to extend to the child’s personal development, schooling, career, business, and family. It is not uncommon for a child to have the same ninong or ninang in his baptism, first communion, confirmation and wedding.
And so this is why parents must choose co-parents wisely. And so this also means being asked to be a god parent is an honor and a privilege. It means your would-be comadre and compadre see you as trust-worthy, responsible and a good influence on their child’s future. In many ways, it’s an invitation to be an extension of their family.
All of a sudden you realize this is a role not to be taken lightly. Remember, you will be equally responsible in making a good, honest person out of your darling inaanak. You should ask yourself, “Am I ready for this kind of obligation? Am I qualified enough? Can I decline?”
Signing up for the Job
There are no clear cut qualifications or pre-requisites for this new role of god parent. And no one can really tell you whether you’re a good or awful fit for the task at hand. But as long as you are willing to give it a try with full knowledge of the job description and the investment involved on your part, then you’re good to sign up! If you’re not yet a parent yourself, some consider this good preparation.
Not your cup of tea
Ninanghood isn't for everyone. There may be times when it's the last thing you want to be: you’re not close with the parents, you feel like you’re being forced, or you have way too many god children already – I know of someone who has 25 and he doesn’t remember all of their names. It’s okay to turn down the invite. It may be an uncommon move but the thing with ninanghood is, once you’re a god parent, you’ll always be the god parent. So if you’re not open to it or not even wanting to try, you might as well set it clear right away with the parents. They’ll thank you in the future for sparing them from choosing a ninang who was always M.I.A.
As for how many god children one can have, that's all up to you. But remind yourself that these are long-term relationships you are agreeing to nurture and this will demand much of your resources. Another consideration is that these relationships will also require your time, attention and patience. If you will not be able to share these resources to your X number of god children, then it might not be fair to them.
But there is an upside to ninanghood. Despite the conscious role of co-parenting, you godchildren will keep you young (physically and mentally) and up to date on what’s new, hip and cool. Your inaanak make you laugh, cry, think and wonder. While you seem to give a lot of your time, effort and disposable income, they give you something much more valuable and priceless: an opportunity to be an adult and yet stay youthful through the chance to play with, teach and influence them.
Here are some suggestions on how to enjoy and embrace ninanghood:
1. GIVE WITH A PURPOSE
Money is nice to receive and convenient to give but be more creative if you really want to be remembered as a positive influence. Get to know what they are fanatic about at the moment. What stage or grade are they now in school? Can they now read? Be in cahoots with the parents of your god child to know what s/he likes or is into nowadays: Dora the Explorer, Spongebob, Hannah Montana or is she already graduating from high school and going off to college?
2. TALK TO THEN LIKE THEY'RE ADULTS
Ask them what they think, give them options and have them decide on their own. They are young people with their own minds and we’re just there to help give advice and pique and challenge their thoughts.
3. DO THINGS TOGETHER
Whether or not their parents come along, doing things together make for great memories: watch a movie, go to a theme park or museum, bake cookies and cupcakes, play badminton. This helps ensure your presence not just during Christmas and birthdays, but year-round.
4. TAKE THE TIME TO TEACH A LESSON OR TWO
If you’re a musician, maybe you can teach them a song or to play an instrument. If you’re an engineer, perhaps you can explain how buildings or bridges are designed or built. Your uniqueness as an individual will influence their unique blueprint of experience and personhood.
5. LEARN SOMETHING FROM THEM
One of the best things about being around children is that they see things in a completely different way from adults. The wonder that you may have lost quite a while back is still fresh and present in your godchild. Let him/her explain the world as he sees it and then see the world as s/he does.
(Photo courtesy of chauromano on Flickr Creative Commons)