Almost exactly two years on from Isaac’s naming ceremony, yesterday we did the same for Toby. The same in many ways, in fact: same venue, same general format, even the same registrar as it turned out. And, just as it did for Zac’s one in October 2008, we were blessed with a mild, sunny afternoon after a distinctly unpromising morning.
I’ve become a big advocate of naming ceremonies as an alternative to christenings particularly because, as a Catholic, there are strict rules about how many godparents you can have and what their religious beliefs must be. While I understand why those rules exist, surely it’s better to have a more informal way of doing it where it doesn’t matter what religion the godparents – or ‘supporting adults’, to use the correct non-denominational terminology – happen to be. And what’s wrong if we want to have four or even six of them? Surely the more guiding influences a child has, the better it is – and the more diverse an individual they will become?
Anyhow, that’s as soapbox-y as I intend to get on that particular matter. Suffice to say that, while Heather and I do believe in the importance of having the support network of godparents as role models (and providers of regular gifts!), we also have a fairly liberal, secular view as to the actual process of how they are recognised.
Ultimately we had six supporting adults: my brother Peter, Heather’s oldest schoolfriend R, and two couples (K & A, S & C) who are good friends and fellow parents. A, S and C kindly agreed to do the following three readings:
Footprints – Anon
“Walk a little slower Daddy” said a child so small
“I’m following in your footsteps and I don’t want to fall.
Sometimes your steps are very fast,
Sometimes they’re hard to see;
So walk a little slower Daddy,
For you are leading me.
Someday when I’m all grown up,
You’re what I want to be;
Then I will have a little child
Who’ll want to follow me.
And I would want to lead just right,
And know that I was true;
So walk a little slower Daddy,
For I must follow you.
A Mother’s Wish – Anon
I hope my child looks back on today
And sees a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking,
But children grow up when you’re not looking.
Tomorrow I’ll do all the chores you can mention
But today, my baby needs time and attention.
So settle down cobwebs; dust go to sleep,
I’m cuddling my baby, and babies don’t keep.
Untitled – Anon
Wishing you many smiles and happy times to come
May life’s adventures be exciting and sweet
Filled with love from the friends that you’ll meet
You’ll soon grow up for time does fly
So cherish each moment as it goes by
From crawling and walking
To toddling and talking
There’s no knowing what you’ll do next
There’s a threshold to cross and a wide open door
And a wonderful world for you to explore
Sleep with the moonbeams and play in the sun
Let your life be a long one and filled with fun
May today and tomorrow and all days hereafter
Be days that are happy and filled with your laughter.
Both ourselves and Toby’s supporting adults also committed to certain promises in our respective roles. We ended up using the same set which Heather and I had put together ourselves for Zac’s naming day:
Do you promise to love Toby always and cherish each day with him?
Do you promise to nurture Toby’s growth and development, from infant to boy, and from boy to man?
Do you promise to fuel Toby’s curiosity and teach him to appreciate the world in all its diversity?
Do you promise to encourage Toby to become a caring and valued member of society?
Do you promise to support Toby in pursuing his dreams and fulfilling his potential?
Do you promise to guide Toby in choosing his path in life, and to be proud of the man he becomes?
Supporting adults’ promises
Do you promise to help and support Tim and Heather in their role as Toby’s parents?
Do you promise to be there for Toby, as an advisor and a friend?
Do you promise to encourage Toby in his hopes and aspirations?
Do you promise to share in Toby’s successes and help him deal with life’s challenges?
Do you promise to assist Toby in living a happy and fulfilled life?
As for what Toby’s names actually mean, I had to remind myself that Tobias means ‘God is good’ and his Chinese name Wai Seng means ‘mighty and strong’ (Wai) and ‘sincere and honest’ (Seng). I’m always a little dubious about the significance of the meaning of names – after all, there is no name that means ‘destined to be a serial killer’ or ‘will probably be a benefits cheat’, is there? – but, anyway, now you know.
The other big advantage of doing a non-religious ceremony was that there was no need to relocate from a church to a different venue, which meant no climbing into cars and piling back to someone’s house where 15 cars would jostle for parking spaces and 40 people would cram into a house normally inhabited by just four. Having the run of a large function room, our own bar and catering staff on hand meant all the kids could run around and play and generally create mayhem in the way that a bunch of kids, aged mostly between two and nine, are wont to do.
One of my fondest memories of yesterday was watching Toby being passed from person to person with a beaming smile on his face, lapping up all the attention and taking in everything going on around him. And the other was seeing Zac haring around the place with his little gang of mates, chasing each other around tables and chairs and providing a constant background of roaring laughter. It was lovely seeing our two boys having a brilliant time. And, regardless of whether it’s a formal christening or a more informal naming day, isn’t that the whole point? A modicum of ceremony, a spot of reflection for the adults involved, and then a big celebratory party to follow. It may not be how things would have been done in the old days. But it’s how we chose to do it yesterday, and I’m comfortable with that.