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Monday, January 30, 2006

The One Where I Become a Godfather

Apologies in advance but recent developments have left me all sentimental and broody. My brother and his wife recently became parents for the second time and made me an offer I just couldn’t refuse. They asked me to be their son’s godfather (insert obvious Marlon Brando joke here).

I now have six nephews and nieces altogether but this is the first time that a Cabinet position has been available. Of course I adopt a Marxist approach to my dealings with them: I’m mad about them all equally and each fairly receives according to their needs (and demands).

More than anything, I get such a buzz off them. And you should, right? You should enjoy their company, revelling in all their innocent wisdom as it challenges your adult stupidity. Children - at least the ones I’m acquainted with - would make the ideal journalism students or detectives for that matter, as the first thing you are taught when training for those jobs is to ask ‘Who, what, where, when, how, why’? Some of their interrogation procedures would break the toughest and most tight-lipped of criminals. Maybe I’m onto something here. Law and Order: Special Infants Unit.

Any godparent will tell you that it’s an incredible honour to be asked and in my case there wasn’t one second of doubt about accepting, apart from making it clear that this categorically does not mean that I have to suddenly grow up.

As someone who doesn’t have children and probably won’t for a long time, being a godparent takes on extra significance. I think single people appreciate these gestures more than anyone. It’s not just a sign of faith, love and trust between the parents and the person they bestow the privilege on. It’s an invitation to take on an extra role in the life of their child.

I don’t just mean the stuff that’s written clearly in the contract: the religious (Christening, Communion, Confirmation), special occasions (birthdays, exams) and miscellaneous (let’s give the chap a chance before answering this, shall we?). That’s the technical stuff. That’s the easy part.

What I find exciting about the role is the idea of having an influence in the child’s life that is not necessarily material. I have been pretty well involved with all my nephew and nieces’ lives although not as much as I’d like to be since I left the homestead for fame and riches (my address must have gotten lost in the karmic post somewhere).

But I feel that this extra role brings something different to a relationship with a child. It may seem on the surface as if we are doing something special for the baby but it’s really the reverse that’s true.

People in this country, especially the ones of my generation and those snapping at our heels, are running the risk of becoming a godless, cynical shower altogether. It was only natural I suppose. This country’s certainties have shifted, some because they had to, others because they were supplanted by something that we haven’t exactly identified yet. There is a danger that, like a lot of other aspects of life here, we are fulfilling clich├ęs, this one being that we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

A baby should be valued and there is no price that can be put on the feelings that he or she evokes. Feelings that they most certainly do not stir, however, are contempt and irony and sarcasm. That’s just one thing that they do for us and for that, in this culture of complaining and know-it-all-ism, we should be eternally grateful for it. Without labouring the point too much, I guess they become our godparent instead, there to guide us and help us along the way. Hopefully, it won’t entail borrowing money off him though. Help me out NUJ!

I’m speaking only on the strength of my own observations and limited experience, but children need as many people to watch out for them as is humanly possible. I hope I’m not aging myself before my time but I like the idea of being a repository of wisdom, support and advice for the child, something that I am going to impose on him whether he likes it or not! As they get older, it can never hurt for kids to know that a lot of people have their back. I think children need that now more than ever before, even if they don’t realise it themselves until much later, if at all.

So, to Mr Aidan Cashin, speaking as your adoring and soon to be over-bearing godfather, I wish you a long and happy life, you beautiful, perfect little boy.

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