The Issue: Bringing Presents

I enjoy bringing special things for my grandchildren, when I visit them.  My daughter sees this as spoiling them.  While I don’t go overboard, I view this as making them feel special and showing my love for them.  How can I be a ‘grandmother’ as I see being a grandmother without getting into a discussion every time about honoring her wishes?

SheSaid – ‘GRAND’

This is one of those things we’ve had to address. And, like it or not, it’s one of those issues that can seem minor, yet quickly become a ‘pothole’ in the parent vs. grandparent roles.

‘Mom’ has had the benefit of lots more information about parenting by way of the internet and multiple choices of parenting books by pediatricians/authors.  Add in the benefit of so much research in the last couple of decades about child development, and she is much better prepared to address the challenges of parenting than I was. We had Dr. Spock and maybe one other pediatrician/author to guide us.  Remember them?  Oh, and we had our own parents to run things by.  Not that they always provided a golden nugget of advice!  After all, there were tremendous differences between being a parent of the WWII era and being one in the ‘baby boomer generation’.   Come to think of it, the experiences of our parents raised during the Depression and WWII certainly was an influence on our parenting styles.

I’m a baker and I love to bring homemade treats to enjoy together.  I also love finding exciting new books to read and fun things to do with my grandchildren.  That’s sharing a part of me, what I value.  It’s hard for me not to want to bring something special, when I visit my grands.  It’s even harder, when you live far away and don’t see your grandchildren on a regular basis!.

Is that spoiling them or just making the most of our time together?  I can see that ‘Mom’ wants to nip this in the bud, yet I also think as a grandparent I should get a pass sometimes on this issue.

 

SheSaid: ‘MOM’

Gifts and surprises from time to time are great fun, but when they become a regular occurrence I get concerned. The  reason I cringe at bringing a surprise every time is that I think my child will come to expect, and look forward to, the gift more than the person visiting… which would  hurt that person’s feelings. If you bring surprises or treats often, you may be setting yourself up for that.

I would like my child to value time with people we love rather than material gifts. It’s awfully hard to teach that, when they know Grandma and Grandpa show up with presents almost every time they visit. I get it….the look on a child’s face when they get a gift is wonderful.  Ask yourself:Why do I bring presents often?  Is it for that joyful response or another reason?Maybe, you can think of another way you could get the same response.

 

Ok, we both agree that parenting is not an exact science and grandparenting is not an armchair sport. And, we both want actively involved grandparents.  So far, so good. So, what’s another approach we can take on this issue?

Mom:

So here are some suggestions I’d rather see. Make your time with your Grand special. Plan an activity or outing.  I am envious that Grands get to spend time completely dedicated to the child without worrying about all their ‘To Do’s’. Make use of that. I think most children really desire attention and love. When I come home from a shopping trip and my son asks “What did you bring me?” I smile, reach out with a big hug and exclaim “ME!”.

As a grandparent, you do get a bit of a pass. However, if you want to maintain positive relationships, you do have to respect the parents’ rules even if you don’t agree.  Yes, I said that, sorry. Chances are if you talk about why, you might even disagree less than you think. For example, I don’t want to teach my son that food or material gifts equal love. They are wonderfully meant gestures, but in excess (in my view) can send the wrong message. So if you have been asked to limit gifts/treats/surprises (or fill in the blank here), find other way to make your visits special in addition to gifts. If you find a toy or game that you just HAVE to give, consider making it a ‘special at Grand’s house’ gift. Or bring it with you when you come over to visit, if you do that on a regular basis. That way, the child will associate the gift or toy with YOU. And it won’t add to the ever growing pile of toys already taking over my house.

GRAND:

It’s so easy for a child to fall into the mentality of “What did you bring me, today?”.  All of my grandchildren have done so at times.  Mom and I are trying to find times when we agree for me to bring special treats or gifts — the more specific, the better to avoid future discussions.  And, I’ve been making a point of going on the internet or reading children’s activity books to plan special, fun activities you can do at no or low cost with your grands.  There are lots of ideas for activities in GRAND magazine and on the GRAND website, including my articles focusing on school readiness (http://grandmagazine.com/news/author/remy/)such as nature walks,  craft activities, an art bin, an obstacle course and special games you can play that are fun and don’t feel like learning activities!

So how do I respond, when one of my grands asks, “What have you brought me?” I respond with the games we’re going to play, the craft project or outdoor activity I have planned. This way, my  grandchildren look forward to my visits without always expecting a present.  And, I am helping them to focus on the time I  devote to them, rather than on what gifts or treats I’ve brought.  Grant it, this is a gradual process and it’s much harder when you see your GRANDS only once or twice a year… but it can work.  After all, the real treat is being with them and your grandchildren being with you!

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We would love to hear from you, both parents and grandparents.  Email your questions or topics that you would like to see discussed in our feature to us at: momandgrand@gmail.com

 

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About Remy Agee and Blair Selby

Blair Selby is currently 'a parent in training' by her preschooler. In her former life, she taught preschool; facilitated parenting groups; and sometimes even slept in. Remy Agee, 'Gam ' and 'Grandma', a GRAND featured columnist on school readiness, continues to learn about life and this amazing world from her five grandchildren and about today's parenting from their parents.