Sunday, November 10, 2013

Somebody's Godmother

The doubts started with a middle name. And a question, or more like a quiz, testing my knowledge of my nephew (on my husband’s side) for whom I would be his Godmother. 

Before the pop quiz, I was probably what most people would describe as a little too enthused about being a Godparent, especially nowadays where more and more people in the country are moving away from bestowing such a title.  But over the past year, alongside with me battling kidney failure which was testing my own relationship with God and others, I felt like I might have a lot to give if I was to become someone’s Godparent.  I’ve had trials. I’ve had tribulations.  I know things.  I know bedtime stories.  I have...some money.  But inquiries into my Godparent qualifications were clearly further down the list on the “do you know your Godson pop quiz.” And The first essay question posed to me by my father-in-law.  What is my future Godson Ryker’s middle name?

Of course I knew the middle name, I said.  Ummm, it’s…um…it’s…”

No matter how many times I ummed I couldn’t think of it.  How did this become my first test as a Godmother?   Who uses middle names anyways? I never use my middle name.  I don’t even remember some of my family members’ middle names.  Middle names are where women’s maiden names go to die.  Middle names are those names that outgoing seniors prefer not to have read aloud when they walk across the stage at their high school graduation.

I know his first name.  And his last name.  What is the big deal, I thought?

Question two:  Did you prepare a speech, my father-in-law asked.  Again, my response started with Um.    

I went home that night thinking about all the things I didn’t know:  his middle name, a potential speech requirement, how to turn a pumpkin into a carriage and make Cinderella’s dreams come true.   Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling I could feel little thought-seedlings taking root and sprouting little buds, each one opening up and releasing the very pungent aroma of “You’re not good enough” and the fragrance sequel of “They’re going to regret asking you to be the Godmother” 

I flung my body to its other side, facing Ben’s back, and asked him if he thought I’d be a terrible Godmother.    He muttered something that sounded like a yes and then went back to sleep.

In the days that followed, I Googled as much as possible about Godparents and what I was supposed to do.  I even hashed out a few strategies I could use on my journey to induction into the Godmother Hall of fame.  The first of which being to buy ten kiddie shirts from Baby Gap on the 9th of every month, to commemorate the monthiversary of his baptism.  The second: Stuff a build-a-bear once a month, each one with different occupations to inspire my little Godson to be a fireman bear, a baseball bear, and astronaut bear...or even just a bear if that’s what he chooses to do for his future occupation.  Every kid wants to be an animal at some point.  

I also planned to go to Costco once a month and buy one bulk-sized bag of candy and wrap it in a box and ship it to my Godson so that he knows how much I love him.  This will eventually lead into a lesson on how to avoid crying while getting your cavities filled in hell...also known as the dentist’s office.  Yes, these were all good strategies I thought.  I was so proud of myself.  There’s no way this baby was going to have an absent Godmother.  This baby will know how much I love him because he’ll have a closet full of clothes to outgrow in the next month., and enough build a bears to form a seven-nation army of stuffed animals, and enough candy to guarantee he’ll never have to go to bed without dessert.  Yes.  I will buy his love. Because that’s always worked.

And then I started feeling depressed again because the truth is that I am one financially challenged Godmother who should probably be applying the cost of that Costco-sized bag of candy to my college loans.

I was back to where I started, throwing myself a pity party for being a terrible Godmother before my duties have officially begun.  

While at brunch one day with some friends, I told them what I’d been struggling with.  I’d been working myself into a panic over whether I would be a good Godmom.  I wondered allowed if this is how REAL parents feel: like they’re not going to measure up.  Do they worry that that their kids are going end up making mistakes like getting suspended from junior high or skipping school to drink before the football game?  Do they worry that their kids will end up blaming their actions or inactions for their relationship issues, or financial issues or emotional issues?  In my situation, I worry that because of some inaction or action on my part, this baby will grow up with some warped perception of God, the Bible, church-folk, possibly because I still fall short in my relationship with God...because I still haven’t memorized those six Bible verses that I said I would memorize, because I still haven’t joined a serving team at church after saying I was going to do it 10 months ago.  And because sometimes I still say that grace over dinner that I learned with I was four (God is great, God is good. Let us thank him for our food)

“I was reading somewhere,” my friend Ann recalled, “that the best thing that you could ever do for your child, is pray for them.”  

Could that really be it, I wondered?  

The week leading up to my Godson’s baptism, I prepared my G-son’s little gifts and purchased tissue paper and bags.  No card though because I couldn’t find one worthy of NOT throwing in the trash.  During one free night I had, I decided to do some journaling, and jot down some thoughts. Unexpectedly, I started to write what was beginning to look like a list of wishes and hopes for my Godson.  A prayer even.  A prayer that Ryker grows into a man who knows God and knows Him well, and will choose to have a close and personal with Him someday.  I prayed that once he learns to walk, while it’ll start out as a crawl, and then a little staggering through the living room, and eventually a run down the sidewalk near his house, that God will walk with him ordering his steps.   Boys will be boys, and Ryker is no exception.  I hope that even when he’s in the midst of “being a boy” and getting dirty and skinning his knee, and dating that girl, and doing that keg stand if he so chooses too, that he will remember that he is a child of a God that loves unconditionally, and forgives, even when Ryker feels he’s not worthy of it.  
I also asked God to help me give Ryker good advice when he asks for it, and keep my mouth shut when he doesn’t.  More than anything I ask that God help me to lead Ryker to Him during every challenge, victory, upset, and happiness in life.

The day of the baptism arrived.  And Ben, my sister, and I arrived super early, half an hour early.  This is not us.  We’re usually half an hour late. While waiting for everyone else to show up we explored the inside of the sanctuary, stopping at the “stations” depicting different scenes from Jesus’s crucifixion.  And of course no baptism is complete without a sisterly rendition of “The Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power” and “Oh Happy Day” in a cold empty church.

Eventually the crowd arrived--grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and my Godson, all dressed in white, ready to have water poured on his head.  I held him until the ceremony began and PRAISE THE LORD he did not cry.  First Godmother mission accomplished.  Pat on the back.  

Then the baptism ceremony began, and a book was read aloud about a mom who was crazy in love with her baby boy, which eventually ended up telling the story about a mom who has some serious boundary issues.  Just kidding but not really.  It was a sweet book...up until the point where the mom entered her grown son’s house through his bedroom window to rock him to sleep (he can’t be married, clearly).  

After the reading it was time for action to begin. Ryker and I walked up to the front of the church, where a stone basin with water sat.  I was prepared for my second Godmother duty of the day….to hand the child off to the priest so that he could pour the water on his head.  That was the plan right?  I’d memorized the middle name.  I even thought about a few lines for a speech.  I bought gifts. I prayed.  I held the baby.  My role for the day was just about over.  Oh, except for the part where the priest asked me to lean the baby over the basin. This was part of the plan that I hadn’t Googled or prepared for. And I definitely didn’t pray about it.

As I started to lean Ryker over the basin, several scary visions flashed before my eyes.  An image of Ryker’s head hitting the concrete basin appeared.  Then I saw myself unintentionally giving Ryker a full water baptism.  It was then that I made my first  “Godmommy” decision to delegate my first real responsibility to the Godfather.  And he dunked the baby and I was thankful.  I didn’t want to be the one to blame for giving Ryker a concussion as soon as he received the Holy Spirit.  

I looked on as the water hit his little scalp and he wiggled.  I felt a bit sad that I couldn’t do this one thing that I was expected to do as a Godmother on the day of his baptism...along with remembering names, and buying candy and giving advice.  But I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to do in that moment.  I thanked God for that moment.  And I sent up a prayer asking God to show me how to be a good Godmother to Ryker, how to be a good role model for him, and how to pray for him. And how to play with him and love him and teach him about God, and how incredibly awesome and wonderful and GOOD God is.

I also prayed that Ryker would not remember how I bobbled him over a sink filled with cold November water before he could even swim.  Amen.