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by Abigail Van Buren

Godparent Plays Minor Role and Never Is Given the Lead

DEAR ABBY: I need to know what is required of godparents. I have two godchildren. My problem is, even though I make myself available at all times (birthdays, school illnesses, any time the parents need a break, etc.), I am not being utilized.

In both cases we stood before God in a church service and made vows to be accessible to the children, and I have been. I have spoken to both sets of parents and made it perfectly clear that I want to be in each child's life, yet whenever the parents need any assistance with their children, they turn to grandma and grandpa. I have gifts of toys and clothing that my godchildren have outgrown by now, so after many calls went unreturned, I've given up trying.

I am concerned that years from now, when the kids are in their late teens, the parents will seek me out for help with money for college and cars. Please help. -- AN M.D. IN D.C.

DEAR M.D.: While in theory a godparent is responsible for the spiritual guidance of a child in accordance with his or her family's religion, in practice the obligation may be no more than that of any close friend of the family.

Contrary to what some might assume, there is no requirement to provide financial assistance. However, a godparent does customarily give a birthday and possibly a Christmas gift until the godchild is grown. You need not worry about future financial obligations to the children, but you should ask the parents what their expectations were when they asked you to assume this solemn and significant role.