Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: I am a happily married man with two wonderful children (ages 6 and 8). Recently, a close friend and his wife (who are Catholic) asked me to be the godfather to their child. I instantly reminded them that I am an atheist. My children weren’t baptized and my understanding is that a godparent is a religious mentor, indeed, in a recent column, you noted that a godparent provides a spiritual backdrop to a child’s life. Although I am not Catholic, religious or spiritual, I would be delighted to be a mentor, close confidant, friend, uncle, etc., to the child. If anything happened to my friend and his wife, assuming it was consistent with their wishes, my wife and I would happily provide for and love the child and raise it as our own, on equal footing with our children. Nonetheless, in my head the question remains, is it appropriate for me to be a godfather?
DEAR ATHEIST: First there is this: Are you willing to participate in the church service during the child’s baptism, and swear in front of your friends, priests, and the congregation not only to renounce the devil (my favorite part) but to also uphold the tenants of the church?
The following is from Catholic Church canon regarding the role of godparents: A godparent will “...help the baptized to lead a Christian life in harmony with baptism, and to fulfill faithfully the obligations connected with it.”
If you are not comfortable participating at this level, it would be most ethical to decline.
If you are comfortable participating in the baptism service and, occasionally, other church services, and if you feel able to fulfill this role for the child, then you should accept.
The second hurdle is the church itself.
Christian churches differ regarding the godparent role and rite. But a Catholic priest might not be willing to administer this rite to a non-Catholic, non-Christian, non-believer. Your friend should check with his priest.
If you are not comfortable fulfilling religious-oriented roles as a godfather, you should thank your friend for this honor and gesture of friendship and trust. Ask him if you can be given an alternate status, whereby you will forge a special friendship with the child. Perhaps you could be the Goshfather — a special friend and honorary uncle.
DEAR AMY: My son is getting married soon. We have invited dear friends and their two adult children and spouses. The wedding is 800 miles away. The one young couple has a baby that will be 6 months old at the time of the wedding. My friend informed me that the baby would be coming. Is it just assumed now that babies are also invited to weddings? The mom is breastfeeding the baby and I guess she would have to bring him along. However, I have visions of the baby crying during the ceremony, etc. Am I out of sync with wedding etiquette? How would you handle this, or is there nothing to handle?
DEAR WONDERING: The young couple is traveling 800 miles to attend this wedding. That’s a fairly heroic (and expensive) undertaking. The mother will need to be near the baby in order to feed him. You might help by seeing if the church or reception facility has an available person to watch over the child during the ceremony, but basically — this baby will likely sleep through a lot of this, tucked away in a car seat or in a parents’ arms. If it cries during the ceremony — the parent or grandparents will attend to it.
Nursing babies should be considered part of the package when their mothers are invited to weddings, especially when they are traveling several hundred miles to get there. Don’t give this too much traction.
DEAR AMY: “Mom” was wrestling with how to encourage her underachieving daughter to succeed at an expensive college. I, too, had a child who skated under the wire in high school, and I thought too immature for college. They should let her go to her dream school, under the caveat that she apply for and use student loans for tuition. If she achieves the C’s her parents want, then they can reimburse her, semester by semester. If not, it’s her dime. It worked for us. Having some skin in the game can make a big difference.
DEAR BEEN THERE: This seems potentially expensive and risky (if the student doesn’t get C’s, stays in school, and continues to compile debt), but I agree that this student must have skin in the game.