Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Wanting to be a godfather: My best friend and I live in different continents nowadays but still manage to see each other three to four times a year and speak regularly. We are in our mid-30s. He and his wife are pregnant with their second child. His brother-in-law was their first child’s godfather. I would love to be his next child’s godfather. Is it OK to let him know this? I don’t want to have children personally and he knows that. I’m concerned that he may think I wouldn’t want to be a godparent. One other note, we are both atheist so this is a cultural/support role, not a religious role.
A: That’s … a really good question, actually! I have a vague memory of some disagreement over what exactly a godparent does during a previous question. If your friend and his wife consider a godparent someone who may potentially take over raising the kids in the unlikely event of their deaths, they may want to choose the same person to godparent all the kids for the sake of consistency, or choose someone in the same country who could be physically present, etc. I think the most you could do is indicate an interest, rather than ask outright and put him in the possibly-quite-uncomfortable situation of having to say “No.” Something like: “You don’t have to say anything, and I understand you may already have decided on someone, but I value our friendship so much and I would love to stand godfather to your next child. But I know you and your wife have a lot of good friends and beloved relatives who probably all want the same thing, and you can’t ask everyone to do it, so I completely understand whatever choice you make.” Making an open-ended, considerate offer is better than asking a question, I think, but if there’s a chance they consider a godparent someone who, at least in theory, would be open to raising their kids, and you don’t think you’d be willing to do it, then I don’t think you should offer at all.