Becoming a Grandparent: Welcome to the Endless Shopping Spree

“Mom, Dad, have we got a surprise for you!”

Even if it’s the big news you’ve been waiting breathlessly to hear, learning of your impending leap into grandparenthood can be an unnerving experience. As if somebody just hammered the final nail into the coffin of your middle age.

Don’t be surprised if the glad tidings leave you feeling both elated and depressed. It’s enough to make you think about getting a tattoo or piercing some hidden body part. Anything to make you feel younger than a grandparent.

Now calm down and step away from the tattoo parlor. Body art? Who do you think you are, Britney Spears or Kobe Bryant?

If you’re an expectant grandmother, there’s only one sure way to spell relief: S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G. Not for yourself, but for that soon-to-be cutest, brightest, sweetest, and funniest grandchild in all the world.

If you’re an expectant grandfather and shopping isn’t your bag, you can still participate by toting the parcels around the mall and doing your best to keep the prenatal spending spree from swallowing up your life savings at Babies R Expensive.

As you head to the baby boutiques and discount stores, prepare to feel out of date and uninformed regarding all the essentials for twenty-first century youngsters. Fortunately, babies themselves are exactly the way you remember them. They still arrive with the same standard equipment and deluxe sound system they’ve always had. What’s different is all the extra stuff that babies—and, therefore, grandparents—require these days. Watch out for some strange new terminology.

The enclosure you knew as a playpen is now a play yard, and it comes with its own rooftop terrace changing station. You might think a baby travel system is a website for infants who want to see the world, but it’s just a fancy baby stroller that magically converts into a car seat. While you’re at it, pick up a bouncer, a swing, a jumper, and a gym. These are all must-haves.

You’ll want a high-style high chair and a crib, plus all the crib accessories. (Designer baby sheets are optional, depending on how the budget’s holding up.) What about a baby bath center? It’s only a plastic tub, so there’s no assembly required. Don’t forget the rubber duckies.

You can never have too many bibs, baby sleepers, sippy cups, and rattles, plus a Binky in every room. Studies have shown that these pacifiers work wonders for grandparents, too. You’ll also need a supply of baby powders, lotions, creams, and shampoos. And diapers, a truckload of diapers.

You’ll discover lots of changes when it comes to baby toys because playtime has become too valuable to spend merely on fun nowadays. Even babies play to learn. They’re on the fast track to advanced placement as soon as they can string together a goo and a gaa.

Look closely at today’s cute and cuddly toys, and you’ll discover that many are tiny tutors in disguise. So babies can push, pull, and tap their way to wisdom when they get tired of just crawling around. A, B, C. 1, 2, 3. Red, blue, green. Baby Mensa, here they come.

Start your toy shopping with plenty of mirrored, textured, stacking, and linking toys, which have been specially designed to stimulate developing minds. No way is your drooling dumpling going to be left behind.

Toss in some of those high-brow names, too. Like Classical Baby DVDs and a Mozart Magic Cube. And remember, today’s baby simply has to have his or her own learning laptop.

When it comes to keeping your grandchild from harm, common sense is still your best friend, but you’ll want to invest in outlet covers, a baby monitor, and a safety gate or two. Those childproof thingamajigs for drawers and cabinets will keep little hands from exploring in all the wrong places. They’ll also discourage late-night snacks for grandparents who should be watching their waistlines.

You’ll quickly learn that being a grandparent means never having to say you’re sorry to a sales clerk or checkout counter display. You might as well attach a sticker to your forehead: I’ll buy anything for my grandchild.

Why are those adorable outfits and toys, silky-soft stuffed animals, and clever gadgets so hard to resist? Maybe it’s the tiny grandparent magnets those crafty manufacturers hide inside.

If you’re worried that all these expenditures might derail your retirement plans, just think about the many grandparental perks to offset trudging in to work every week. Like story-time cuddles, gap-toothed grins, shared confidences, and the absolute pleasure of being with a child you can return at the end of the day.

To say nothing of the tens of thousands of rewards points you’ll be racking up on your Visa and American Express cards. The stores, the banks, and our nation’s economy will love you for it. Ka-ching!

 

Diana J. Ewing is the author of The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Grandparenting

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