There’s a scene in Francis Ford Coppolla’s film, The Godfather that produces what many consider to be one of the best-known lines in film history.
In the scene, Don Vito Corleone, played ruthlessly by Marlon Brando, is approached by his godson, Johnny Fontane, who asks for help boosting his struggling career. A studio head is refusing to give him a movie role that he believes could put him back on top. So, he comes to the Godfather for guidance. The Godfather, upon hearing Johnny’s plea, turns to him and delivers these comforting words: “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” The studio head has a sudden change of heart when he awakens to find himself in blood-soaked sheets and a severed horse head in his bed. Johnny is subsequently hired. It’s pure cinematic gold.
Like that studio head, I too was in bed when I received an offer, better known as a shakedown to those outside of a mob family. I was fast asleep dreaming of severed horse heads when my phone started buzzing. I ignored it at first, but after the 15th buzz, I jumped up to read my phone. That’s when I realized that I had been added to a WhatsApp group chat. Strike #1. But, not just any group chat – one created for the godparents of Baby Rico (the name has been changed to protect the identity of the child and to protect me from a potential ass whoopin’.)
As I scrolled through the chat I counted 15 unfamiliar numbers with profile pictures I had never seen. Fully awake and irate now, I searched for clues as to how I wound up in this digital quicksand. That’s when I stumbled upon the opening words of the group’s administrator: “As the godparents of “Baby Rico”, you are expected to . . .” Strike #2. I don’t remember the rest of the words because I blacked out. The kind of blackout you have when you catch your spouse in bed with your cousin or have been added to a WhatsApp group without your permission.
Not only did I not sign up to be a godmother, but this group administrator was bold enough to state the rules and regulations governing those godparent duties. My presence in that group lasted all of five minutes. I exited without explanation.
Seconds later, I heard more buzzing. The administrator added me again. Strike #3.
When you’re childfree with disposable income, you are viewed as the ideal candidate to be a godparent. You become, what I like to refer to, as Santa Claus-Babysitter-Guardian. You’re expected to buy presents all the time, help with school fees if the parents fall short; babysit the child on the weekend and raise him or her if the parents get mauled to death by wild boars. It’s akin to the runner-up role in the Miss Universe pageant. What you get in exchange is to hear them call you goddie and if you get married, they get to stand in your wedding and mess up the photos by crying and acting a fool. It’s a terrible package deal.
Being asked to be a godparent was a respected request one time ago. It was a right of passage among friends – proof that their friendship was so strong that the parent could entrust their child in their care. Today, things have changed.
Firstly, you don’t have to be friends. You just have to ask how the baby is doing. Apparently, any expression of interest in the child’s well being means you want to be the godmother.
Back when I used to work for a local newspaper, a young intern who barely spoke to me in the three months she was there suddenly took a liking to me after discovering our mutual love of rap music. She was rapping in the office when I joined in to finish the lyrics. She was overjoyed that I knew the words. So much so that she confessed that she was three months pregnant and said she had put my name down on her list to stand godmother. That’s the power of rap. I respectfully asked her to remove my name from that list. She got angry and cursed me out. Also the power of rap.
I’ve talked to scores of godparents. I have not heard one of them say that they would take care of their godchildren if the parents died. In fact, many of them are hoping that immediate family members would step up to care for the child. This is why it’s so important that parents carefully consider the people they want in their children’s lives. They could start by first asking if the individual wants to be a godparent. Secondly, they need to ask these potential candidates just how many godchildren they currently have. Some people are addicted to standing. They don’t give a damn about the children. They want to being recognized in church, take Christening photos and go to Mosaic for dinner after the photo session. After Christening Day, they will not be seen or heard from again.
Years later, while you’re out grocery shopping with your child you will run into this poor excuse for a godmother and she will run up to hug you and your son whom she’ll refer to from here on out as “Goddie baby.” Do you know why she’s calling him Goddie baby? Because she doesn’t know your son’s name. Then, she’ll look at the child in disbelief and attempt to guilt trip him because he doesn’t know who she is. “You ain’t remember me, Goddie baby? Goddie baby getting so big, man!” Then the parent, just as fool, will prod the child further. “Rico, you ain’t remember Goddie Cathy? Girl, he just woke up.” As if sleep wipes children’s memories clean.
I have three godchildren – one boy and two girls. I also happen to know their names. I have managed to stave off requests from others and I’ve always been comfortable with the word ‘no’, so I think that’s it for me. But, for my readers out there, even though it’s hard to turn down an eager parent’s request, do the child a favor and just say no if you can’t commit to really being involved in their lives.
“Goddie baby thanks you.”