The Substitute: Who Will “Stand” For the Children?

MP900316974When we usher life into the world, we hope that fate is fair enough to us that we can see them grow into adulthood and have families of their own. Such is not always the case, which is why it has been a traditional practice of ours to choose a marraine (godmother) and parrain (godfather) for our children. These people should be carefully chosen individuals you can count on, not only in the case of your death, but throughout the course of the child’s life for rearing support and assistance.

My marraine was my mother’s sister. They were closest in age and shared a close bond with many common interests. As my mother’s first child, it was only fitting that her best friend and sister would “stand for me,” as it was called back home. Growing up, my aunt was my second mother. She guided me as my mother would, taking me places, showing me things. Had anything happened to my mother, she would have taken me to live with her, no questions asked.

My parrain was my mother’s cousin. While I saw him occasionally, his influence didn’t run as deep as my aunt’s. I didn’t spend the time with him that I did her. Distance might have played a part in that. However, whenever I did see him, we got along well.

Recently, my husband and I were discussing someone to “stand” for our youngest. I shared how important I view that role. That it’s not a snap decision—although, he wasn’t proposing such a decision. But in choosing a person for this role, you want to choose someone who will be there as my aunt was—in life and death. Not occasionally. Not a stranger who shows up at your doorstep once you’re dead. You want someone who will be there to enforce and reinforce your ways so that they continue with minimal interruption. If there is more than one child, it’s quite a treasure to have someone who will take them all in so that they stay together, building sibling ties.

It has only been in the last few years that I have gained a greater understanding of the importance of that role and why it is a role that should be given the utmost consideration early on. A person chosen to fill your shoes should not be chosen simply because you’re friends today, you’re related, you like them, they ask or you feel pressured to choose.

You must look at how that person currently conducts their lives, how their values match with your values, how they view parenting and, if they already have children, how they are parenting their children—their overall trustworthiness, accountability and reliability. If these people do not have children that doesn’t immediately disqualify them, but you do need to take into account why they may not, if they plan to, what that would mean for your child, what type of childhood this person had, their interactions with children, their experience—their overall trustworthiness, accountability and reliability. Everybody is not qualified to be a parent. In the same token, not everyone is qualified to fill the role of parent.

Back in the day, people gave more serious consideration to who could fill their shoes. Today, it has become a hodgepodge, with people choosing someone due to popularity, what they think the person could add, because we’re friends today—the maddening list goes on and on. What many aren’t looking at is the philosophical, spiritual, economic, emotional and character-based qualities of the person. We’re taking on godparents in name only, with no real expectations—on their part—of actually carrying out any duties.

If you are not a religious person and want your child to be able to choose their own path as it regards religion, it wouldn’t make sense to ask someone who holy rolls through church every day that the church doors are open. Same goes for someone who has had a traumatic or unhappy childhood. If this person has not resolved those issues within themselves, why would you choose them to parent your child? If you wish to see your children home schooled, you don’t choose someone who believes there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the public school system because they attended and turned out just fine.

If you’re a voracious acquirer of knowledge, you don’t choose someone who is allergic to reading books and gaining knowledge. You don’t choose a twerker, a Facebook nudist, an unscrupulous person or someone with an immature mind—unless, of course, you’re also a twerker, a Facebook nudist, an unscrupulous person or someone with an immature mind. But, then, there’s no reason to read this at all, is there?

So, where do we and how do we start to choose? We start with a trio of questions. The first questions we must ask are, What makes this person fit for the job, will this person uphold the tenets of this job, and will this person accept the invitation to come into our lives and help to rear this child starting in the now?

Put aside all the glittery glory when asking these questions, because these will be three of the most important questions that require answering. These will be the questions that start you on the journey to choosing the most suitable people for the job.

As a co-parent, this is a question that must be asked by both, because the decision as to who gets asked, is a decision that should be made by both. Remember, the chosen people will be people who will be expected to spend considerable time around the child while you are BOTH living.

This is not a decision to be made lightly or out of some fantastical ideal of who you believe might step up to the plate. Often, it is those we assume will step up that don’t or do so in ways that are counterproductive to what we would have desired. I would not choose someone who didn’t get along with my family as a whole, because this person has a high likelihood of keeping my child(ren) from the family. I would not choose for a godparent someone who does not get along with my husband. Don’t have to provide any explanation as to why; this should be self-explanatory.

Finding and appointing people who not only share your values, but live your values, goes a long way toward the health and happiness of a child. Should you live long enough to see them grow into adults, as is my hope, you can speak gratitude that well-chosen marraines and parrains made the growing process much easier.

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