I would listen with rapt attention to everything they said. I noticed how they dressed, found their jokes hilarious and craved their advice. They had credibility for one simple reason: they were NOT my parents.
Most of us have had at least one person who took an interest in us when we were young. Especially in the teen years these adults seemed cooler, smarter and infinitely more interesting than our own parents. With only a few minutes attention when we need it most, they can have a HUGE impact on our lives – for better or for worse. When I was trying to figure out who I wanted to become it was these youth leaders, sunday school teachers, friend’s parents and family members who made a difference. My parents set me on the right track and they encouraged me to stay the course.
Back when I did staff training we called it the “expert-with-a-briefcase effect.” Everyone would listen and respond so much better when an outsider was brought to teach them exactly the same things we had been saying all along! I couldn’t take it personally, since the same held true when I went somewhere else as the “expert.” We all sit up a little straighter and open our minds a bit wider when the teaching comes from someone new.
Last weekend I stood in front of the church and made vows. I had been asked asked to stand up as my neice’s godmother. Now, I must confess this is not my first gig as a godparent. Unfortunately, between job changes and moves across the country, we have lost touch with the family that asked us over a decade ago. We don’t really know our godson and even with Facebook in the mix it doesn’t seem likely to change. But I am determined to do better this time around, even more so after all the solemn promises I made.
The ceremony was held in a beautiful old church complete with liturgy, vestments, kneeling and all sorts of Anglican customs that seemed both strange and exotic to me. Godparenting is not something Baptists have embraced and I think it’s a real shame. All parents could use a little spiritual back-up; an expert from the outside if you like.
It’s easy right now – my neice is a sweet, happy baby who gives a great snuggle. She has a bit of a puking problem, but she and I have discussed it and we feel it’s under control. But I want to be there for the not-so-easy days too:
when an unkind word seems like the END of the world…
when parents are JUST SO UNFAIR…
when it feels like no boy will EVER look her way…
when they do…
when church seems ____________ (stupid/boring/hypocritical/irrelevant)…
when there are more questions than answers and God seems far away…
Thank you to all of you who were there for me on those days! I hope my own kids will find role models like you. People who are not only fun and silly, but wise and compassionate. Parents are absolutely crucial, but the old saying is also true: it takes a village.
With a busy family of my own, being a godmother seems somewhat daunting, but oh, so important. Not because her parents aren’t terrific, but because they are. Since most of the godparenting examples I know of are either magical fairies or ruthless mobsters, I’m asking for help. I do all the talking in this blog and I’d love to hear from you for a change.
So here’s me, asking for your ideas. What are some practical ways I can support my new god-daughter?
Plus, a muppet clip… just ’cause.
September 6th, 2011 at 11:56 pm
You are one special young lady Christie. And yes, I still think of you as young. :). That’s a good thing though. If my Christie, who bears your name, turns out to be anything like you I will indeed be blessed. Love you and continue to pray for you. Jeannie
September 7th, 2011 at 6:28 pm
Of course we are BOTH still incredibly young! You are definitely one of the people I was thinking of when I wrote this Jeannie. You shared your life with us, not to mention buckets of water on our heads first thing in the morning (gotta love camp). Love to you and your whole family (but especially Christie – what a great name!!!)!
September 7th, 2011 at 10:16 pm
Thank you to those of you who’ve responded to me privately – great advice. Feel free to post it for everyone to see. We all find our own way to support the kids we love – from watching their games, teaching them to do their taxes or driving them places… Keep it coming!