We're pleased to welcome back our guest blogger, Linda Stroud, who has lots of wise advice on the art and science of grandparenting.
In the last blog, I set out the basic rules I follow as a grandparent. Here are some of my ideas about gift-giving.
When we are all together I buy T-shirts and iron numbers on each one, starting with the first grandchild, who is number one through the last grandchild, who is currently number 12. I have a T-shirt for each grandchild, numbered 1 through 12. The grandchildren love their T-shirts. The big surprise is they started doing math problems with their bodies. Number 2 stands next to number 3, and then number 5. They know everyone’s number and their names, too.
One summer we went to the beach, and I ordered 12 personalized towels, one for each grandchild. Since many parents don’t like their child’s name on items they use in public, I had the towels printed with the following:
Also, I often make photo books using Mac, Shutterfly or whatever I like. We take so many photos when the children are visiting or we visit them. Having a memory book is another way to document and sustain memories. The children often pull the books out and love to recall our visits. They like the books about their cousins’ visits, too. I make two copies, one to keep at my house and one for them. The parents tell me the books are a favorite bedtime story. Now, I don't do this every time - just when I feel the urge. I don’t feel obligated.
Here’s another idea. You know the large foam boards 24X36 inches? They are fabulous for sending in the mail. I add a message and address them like a postcard, then simply take them to the post office where you can mail them as-is. No need to wrap.
Then, there are the holidays. With all the holidays we have in our country, sometimes it feels like one constant celebration. My philosophy is, as a grandparent, it is not my responsibility to give gifts on all these holidays. It is the parent’s turn to enjoy and decide how to celebrate each of them with their children. With that being said, when I get the urge (I don’t put pressure on myself), I might send a box of goodies for each family. I do not send individual holiday gifts (St. Patrick’s Day, Valentines, Thanksgiving, Easter and Passover). So, what is in a box per family? Whatever I find - games, arts and crafts, fun food items, household decorations, placemats, dishtowels, soap, bubble bath, dog treats - anything for the whole family. It is a surprise box, and remember, I do not do this often - maybe once a year on a holiday that works for me. I think it is more exciting for the families when it is unexpected.
And even though we are not all together during the holidays, I like to send them all matching PJ’s each year. They like to share photos with each other in their PJ’s and it helps them all feel connected.
At first, birthday gifts for the grandchildren were so much fun for me, then all of a sudden I had 12, and it became a chore. Again, out of necessity, I wanted to think of something I could give to all the grandchildren every year. For me it was a United States Mint proof coin set for each year. I order 12 of them at the beginning of the year and, voila! I am ready for their birthdays! It is rather shocking, but especially as the grandchildren get older they actually think the coins are really cool. Same birthday gift for everyone yearly - coins.
I often throw in something else if I see something I think they would like, but I don’t feel pressured or obligated. For the girls I do include a Growing up Girls figurine Doll for each year. I wish they had them for boys!
Not everything has been a success, of course. Here is my failure: I gave them money one year. I think it was $25.00 to give to a charity or someone in need during the holidays. They did not think this was a good gift, so I didn’t do that again. Lesson learned. A Grandparent gives gifts, not lessons. Thanks, grandchildren, for teaching me!
Grandparenting has been a journey for me with so many unexpected lessons and new experiences both with my adult children and my grandchildren. No one ever tells you that when you get the new title of “grandparent”, it comes with a new role. I would say it is like parenting: no one ever tells you the truth about being a parent either. Or if someone does, no parent-to-be believes them! You can’t honestly explain the feelings, emotions and all the highs and lows of being a parent. We all just manage as we tread the waters and do the best we can and hope for the best. So I say, “Just have fun in the role of grandparent and let your adult children do the rest.”
I now know why we have the word grandparent. It is because it is so very grand!
Observe the children (listen and see) and they will teach you everything you need to know about both parenting and grandparenting.
I am currently working on a family picture book, Grandmimi’s Kisses, for all my grandchildren, that covers these traditions. Hopefully, it will be completed by December, 2020.
Next time, I’ll share my cake theory with you!
Linda Stroud, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend and retired Professor, Child Development, Pasadena City College.