Amy Jenkins: Martin Amis's failing is mine too

Unless you're a Mary Poppins, godparenting is a very tricky business

Share
Related Topics

So Anna Ford thinks Martin Amis is a narcissist. She may be right – but the fact that he's a useless godparent is not good evidence. Ford has complained that Amis "paid scant attention" to her daughter Claire and "didn't even cough up the statutory five bob expected".

Surely, you're allowed to resist jumping through sentimental hoops without being a narcissist? Because for every wonderful fairy godmother out there, there's a bad fairy creeping around limp-winged with guilt. Someone like me. Someone who's not good at remembering birthdays, who still hasn't bought the silver christening spoon, who can't afford to lay down the case of fine wine that will mature at the same rate as a dear friend's beloved offspring.

The thing is, being a godparent is an extremely tricky business. For a start, unless you're a natural Mary Poppins, it's hard to make friends with other people's children. (Frankly, it's sometimes a challenge to find them interesting.) Young children don't relate to adults who aren't family unless those adults put a large amount of work in. To figure in a child's universe you need to visit often bearing large and exciting presents. And not any old presents. The right presents. This requires extensive research, otherwise the child will crow: "Got it already!" and sling your gift to one side with some glee.

Of course, they'll eventually grow out of being rude – but then you've got a sulky teenager to contend with. Perhaps you'll take them on an expensive night out to a hit London musical. Perhaps they'll fidget beside you all evening, sending furtive texts on their i-phone. Perhaps when it's over they'll say: "That was-" "Yes?" you say expectantly... gratitude at last? "Long! That was so long."

With a teenager, you're better off thrusting money into their hand, but even that can be hard to pull off. A godchild is not a bell boy. The age of tipping children as a matter of course is long gone. Sadly, that five bob Anna Ford talks about isn't statutory. If it were, things might be different.

Being a godparent is so tricky because the rules are ill-defined. What exactly are you meant to provide and when? What are the parents expecting of you? Some parents appoint you and then get scared that you're going to muscle in. One friend teased me that, as godmother, I was meant to provide moral guidance to his son. As he talked his wife kept interjecting: "No she doesn't!", somewhat alarmed.

Clearly, godparenting can queer the pitch of friendship. Roles are unclear and there's a kind of forced intimacy. Friendship doesn't respond well to forcing. I haven't lost many friends over the years. Some friendships have drifted off, run their course or simply been outgrown. That's natural – but the two friends I've most painfully fallen out with are both men who asked me to godparent a child. In fact, I have two little god-orphans.

All that being said, when godparenting does work out it can be glorious. I have a lovely godmother but – guess what – I chose her myself. It's the only way to do it. She was an old friend of my mother's who I re-met in my early twenties. As our friendship grew – unforced – she began to refer to herself as my godmother and now the idea is so much part of our bond that both of us believe it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test