There are a lot of conflicting feelings among grandparents when it comes to giving gifts to their grandchildren.
Some rejoice in the fact that (not burdened with their financial support as they were as parents), they have the money and freedom to go a little overboard.
Others feel self-conscious that their budget doesn’t allow them to keep up with the other set of grandparents.
Some are conscious of setting an example that doesn’t include materialism and over-consumption.
Others think it is the prerogative of the grandparent to spoil the grandchild.
So what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to grand gift giving?
GRAND GIFT GIVING – WHAT’S WRONG
First and foremost it is our job to respect the parents’ wishes. If the parents have made it clear they don’t want their child to have a certain thing, then we need to abide by that wish. Grandma does NOT always know best.
I know one grandmother who ignored the parents’ wishes and bought her grandchild a mobile phone. The parents had set an age when they were prepared for the child to own their own smartphone. The grandmother thought she knew better.
It doesn’t matter that the phone had no internet access. It doesn’t matter that the grandmother truly believed her grandchild needed the phone.
What matters is that the parents’ authority was undermined and their plan derailed. It will make things more difficult for them the next time that child wants something that they are not yet prepared to give.
By the same token, grandparents planning on spending a lot of money on an item, particularly anything involving technology, should consult with the parents first. It is, after all, the parents who have to deal with the tantrums when they insist homework and chores are done before that child plays with the brand new thing.
It’s important to be aware of what we’re spending so that one child isn’t favoured over another. That behaviour can break tiny hearts and cause lifelong confidence issues. Keep things equal at all costs.
AN IMPORTANT QUESTION TO ASK
The first question we should ask ourselves when buying gifts for the grands is; “Who are we really buying this for”?
Is that newborn baby really going to appreciate the talking bear that cost you hundreds of dollars? By the time the child is old enough to appreciate such a toy, there will be better ones on the market.
I understand the lure of baby toys and I’ve fallen into that trap many times myself.
But the truth is, we are buying those gifts more for our own delight than for the child’s.
If we can hold out and buy those gifts when they are a little older, the delight will be doubled as we are rewarded with their gleeful smiles.
When we’ve convinced ourselves our grand absolutely has to have that mobile phone, are we really considering the child, or simply our own wishes?
If we overindulge our grandchildren to gain favour with them, are we really doing what is best for them? Are we showing grand guidance? Or grand goofiness?
We need to think about the impact our gifts have on the child and the values we want to teach them as well as the parents who are responsible for them.
I’ve heard many parents mourn the fact they did not have time to save and buy a certain gift before the grandparents stepped in and beat them to it.
We all have certain values we want to teach our grandchildren. Most of us would agree on gratitude as a priority. We undermine our chances of instilling this in them if we create an environment of expectation by overindulging them.
If we are trying to help raise environmentally conscious citizens, we need to consider the example our gift giving sets.
Oodles of pre-packaged toys, wrapped in colourful paper adds up to a whole lot of waste. Even more so if those toys are thrown out to make way for the next new thing.
I was speaking to a fellow grandparent the other day who told me he did not intend to buy any more gifts for his grandchildren. He said he and his wife had spent an absolute fortune on various gifts for them only to see them broken within days or thrown out within weeks.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
“We spent more on them than we did on ourselves and then you go for a visit and see your precious gifts thrown in the rubbish.
“We may as well be throwing our money down the toilet.
“To make things worse, every time they see us, the grandkids ask what gift we have for them – even before we get a ‘hello’ or a hug.
“This is what we’ve created”.
I have spoken to several grandparents who feel insecure because they cannot afford to buy expensive gifts for their grandchildren as the other set of grandparents do.
I always remind them that it is not a competition and that their inability to afford expensive toys could well mean they are the better gift givers.
Our grandchildren don’t make their love for us about what gifts we can give them – unless we teach them to.
The biggest gift we can give them is part of ourselves. Sharing our time and talents with them is the best gift.
Are you a wonderful cook? Share that activity with the grands. Are you a great gardener? This is a fantastic activity to share with grandchildren. Do you feel like you don’t have anything special to offer? You’re wrong. Time is the most precious commodity we can give our kids. Time to read together, play together, listen to each other’s stories. These are the things that will be remembered long after landfill has claimed those shiny new things.
GRAND GIFT GIVING – WHAT’S RIGHT
Everyone’s budget is different and that is fine. Each and every one of us has something special to offer our grandchildren. We need to tap into that and share it with all of our hearts.
We need to remember that once we hit retirement, funds will become more limited. Let’s not set standards we can’t maintain.
A well made and thoughtful gift created by us is a wonderful alternative to store-bought things.
My mother-in-law knitted the cutest Thomas the Tank Engine jumper for my first son. He loved that jumper and wore it all the time. Then his brothers enjoyed staying warm in that fun and cosy sweater. Now, it hangs in a wardrobe at my eldest son’s house, waiting for his son to grow big enough to wear it.
We should consider environmentally friendly options. Do your grands already have more toys than they know what to do with? Perhaps an experience would be a better gift.
One grandmother friend of mine gave her little granddaughter dancing lessons as a birthday gift. She takes the child there each week and together, they are creating beautiful memories – no packaging involved.
Another grandmother friend took a couple of her granddaughters to a fun musical as their Christmas present. They had the enjoyment of the anticipation, once they’d opened their tickets. Then the excitement of the event itself. And finally, the fun of the memories it created. It’s kind of like a gift that keeps on giving.
SOME FUN IDEAS
I bought something ‘big’ for each family when they had their first child. A pram for one, a walker for another and a cot for another. They all cost about the same. I didn’t feel the need to repeat this expense for the siblings.
They all received the usual gift basket of goodies – washers, lotions and potions, nappies and so on, usually with some cute little toy (to please ME) attached.
When they turned one, I opened a bank account for each of them. A little money (and I mean a little – I have five of them!) gets put into the accounts automatically each month. When they reach 16 I’ll convert their accounts into trusts they can access when they are 21.
I also bought them ‘treasure’ chests that stay at Grandy’s house until they are 18. The chests contain costume jewellery (because they love playing with them now), little knick-knacks from around the house that each child has particularly favoured and pictures of the real jewellery I’ll put into the boxes before handing them over. I don’t own a lot of expensive jewellery but there are some sentimental pieces owned by my mother and grandmother that I’d like them to have.
Possibly the most important addition to the boxes will be the annual letters I write them telling the kids about the fun we got up to each year. The letters include pictures as well as any tickets to shows and events we went to. I usually add a little money to each letter, which will be fun for them to have when they are 18. Again, these are safely locked away so I can let the kids play with their treasure boxes without opening the letters and spoiling the surprise.
GIVE GIFTS THAT KEEP GIVING
After indulging in giving gift towers and nonsense toys, I’ve realised the importance of cutting back. Not only to save my pocket as the family keeps growing but also to instil the values I’m always talking about – avoid over-consumption, care for the environment by reducing landfill, be grateful for everything, don’t have an attitude of expectation and so on.
I plan to buy fewer toys and more experiences we can share together – making memories that will outlast toys. Research has shown that spending money on experiences, rather than things, makes you happier.
If you are stuck on ideas and live in the Lower Blue Mountains (Australia) area, Wacky Workshops, my arts and crafts school, now offers gift certificates. Check out the Wacky shop for details.
What are your tips for grand gift giving?
Happy giving and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.