I thought about titling this post, the second installment of The Faith of Our Children series, Keeping the Extended Family Close (aka “Living with the In-Laws”).
Although it might have been fun to poke (more) fun at my current living situation, I realized I didn’t have anything substantial to say about how living with my children’s grandparents affects their faith. I really couldn’t think of anything consequential at all to say about the relationship between the extended family and the faith of my children.
We have a few issues working against the extended family’s positive impact:
- My mother is not Catholic, nor any faith, which means that her entire side of the extended family doesn’t share our faith. If anything, it confuses my 6-year-old that we always go to church when we’re visiting together and they get to stay home, play, and eat brunch.
- We don’t see my father’s side of the extended family enough for my children to have real relationships with them, particularly when it comes to the faith.
- My husband’s family, beyond his immediate parents and sister, are mostly fallen-away Catholics, so any impact would be slim or negative.
- We each only have one sibling, both younger than us and as of yet childless, so there’s just not much that the aunts and uncles have figured out to share or enhance our children’s faith. Plus, my kids are only 6 and 3, so the aunts and uncles are definitely still in the “let’s have fun with our niece and nephew” phase, rather than “how can we share our faith with these kids?”
That story doth not a good post make.
If anything, I considered writing about how we hope – pray – envision – and witness – our children impacting the faith of our extended family.
The Faith of Children…a Beautiful Sight to Behold
When we religiously pray together before all meals, even lunch at a restaurant; when family members see that even our 2-year-olds know their prayers by heart; when we are able to invite aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents to join us for nighttime prayers, we really see how our children’s faith touches others. It is my prayer that they can be a good example and an inspiration to deeper faith for those who are fallen away or lukewarm.
Some of the best, most emotionally connected moments I’ve had with my father, mother, and sister-in-law have been when we’re praying nighttime prayers with the kids and we all are able to articulate out loud our gratitude for the gift of family, for the joy we have in these children, and for the preciousness of one another. Without children, we wouldn’t share that with each other.
As awesome as it is to reflect on how simply having children, raising them in the faith, and being bold enough to act out our faith in front of others may positively impact our family members’ faith, it’s still not worthy to be the central focus of an entire post.
What’s a Godparent For?
In the Catholic faith, the parents are deemed “first teachers of the faith.” It is our sworn duty at each child’s Baptism to raise them in the faith to the best of our ability. The godparents also take an oath, that they will be helpers to the parents in raising these children Catholic, with a heart for Christ (my words, not anything official).
Take note: godparents are not there to either
- Raise the child if the parents die (which is what I erroneously thought they were for, exclusively, my entire life)
- Make sure the kid gets an extra gift at Christmas and their birthday (which also might have been a pretty cool bonus in my childhood)
A godparent’s job, their God-given duty, is to pray for their godchild and help the parents pass on the faith of the Church. A weighty assignment to be sure!
I’m a Godmother Twice Over
I am blessed to have two godchildren myself, unfortunately far flung in Boston and Texas (I’m in Michigan), but I try to do what I can to help their parents pass on the faith, mainly through reminding them of their Baptism day with a gift or a card (not their birthday, their Church birthday) and making the gifts of a spiritual nature.
I should pray for them daily…but I admit, I forget. If you have a godchild, close your eyes and say a prayer for the building of their faith right now. I am.
Do Family Members Make the Best Godparents?
In my husband’s family, it’s very much tradition to choose a child’s godparents from among the aunts, uncles and cousins available. That tradition goes hand in hand with the tradition of buying Christmas and birthday gifts for both your godchildren and godparents. It’s mandatory.
Now that my kids have godparents, though, I wonder if that’s the best route to take.
My firstborn’s godfather ended up being my younger brother, sort of by default because of who his godmother was destined to be (see next section). As I am constantly praying for my little bro to return to the faith…that might not have been the best decision on our part for someone to help us raise our son as a Catholic (but it may turn out to be later, hopefully!).
Our second child followed the tradition of my husband’s family, so her godparents double as her aunt and uncle. Because they’re family, and on visits they are first aunt and uncle to two Kimball kids, and godparents to one of them as a distant second, sometimes I feel like little Leah got shorted in a way. Her extended family remained the same size after her Baptism, while my son’s increased by one.
That “one” new extended family member is my dearest friend from college and one of the holiest women I know. I couldn’t imagine NOT choosing her to be the godmother of my firstborn, even though I think I stepped on some Kimball toes over on my husband’s side of the family by going against tradition.
She has been such a gift to our family and to Paul in particular, and I really honor her as the ideal picture of what a godparent should be. I know she prays for his faith daily and fervently, and she puts a great deal of time and thought into her gifts for him, which are usually the perfect balance of something fun and something holy. For example: the Superman pajamas, cape included, and the “Heroes of the Bible” short stories book, which has been a favorite on his nightstand for two years.
But the best part?
She’s an extra person in his life to love, dote on, be proud of, and generally support him in everything he does. He always gets to chat with her on the phone when I talk to her, and when she visits, she spends genuine quality time with him. We even traveled together, mother and son, across the great Lake Michigan to Minnesota to visit her last summer, and what a pampering he received!
Most importantly, from the moment she held him as a newborn and I overheard her explaining to him God’s gift of a rainbow, I know that his faith is foremost in her mind. I know she understands and accepts her great duty as a godmother, and she’s already laying the foundation for and thinking about how she’ll be a confidant for him when he’s a surly teenager, and how she’ll always be able to guide him toward the Rock that is Christ.
I cannot express how grateful I am that my son has such a gift in his life.
Which brings me to the baby due to be born in a month, another little boy. We’re out of siblings, and on neither side of the family do we see a candidate that is both holy and dear to us (other than those who are so far away in location that they wouldn’t even make it to the Baptism).
Besides that, having both experiences under my belt, I’d rather find two non-family members to be godparents, so our new little guy has a chance to have what Paul has.
Will we offend Kimball family members who expect that they might be on the godparent list? Maybe.
When I survey the tremendous impact Paul’s godmother has had and will continue to have on his faith and his life, do I care? Not a bit.
We need to pray and discern deeply over number three’s godparents, because they’re about to become spiritually connected as members of our extended family and responsible for helping us keep the faith in this as of yet known-only-to-God precious personality.
It’s exciting and frightening to have such responsibility, isn’t it?
As a godparent, how do you share the faith with those entrusted to you? As a parent, how did you choose your children’s godparents?
You can find all the Faith of our Children posts from KS here.
What Others Have to Say About Their Extended Families
Honored as always to work with six other amazing mama bloggers on this series…
- Mom’s Toolbox – Extended Family and the Faith of our Children
- Balancing Beauty and Bedlam – Building Strong Extended Family Relationships
- Owlhaven – Amazing Grace: From Generation to Generation?
- Parenting Miracles – A Family Resemblance Beyond Blue Eyes
- The Happy Housewife – How Does Extended Family Affect the Faith of Our Children?
- Smockity Frocks – How Extended Family Nurtures the Faith of Our Children
- Amy’s Finer Things – The Role of Godparents
See my full disclosure statement here.