It’s A Grand Life – Presents and Presence

A number of years ago, a friend of ours welcomed the birth of his first grandchild by opening a very generous savings account in the child’s name. His second wife questioned the decision of the amount, but felt it was not her place to push her opinion. Having three children from a previous marriage, each presented him with numerous grandchildren, and it was expected they would receive the same magnanimous gesture that the first experienced. In hindsight, he acknowledged it was not one of his better calls. The savings account was not the issue, but the amount definitely was.

It should have been a lesson learned, but when you first hear the words, “You’re going to be grandparents!” you can’t wait to bestow worldly goods on this treasured child. The excitement clouds your vision of the probability that, in all likelihood, this will not be your only grandchild. You are in the moment of utter joy and can certainly be generous and forthcoming with little gifts here and there, and bigger items for special occasions. I found myself veering into baby shops and looking for things online daily. This is not to say our gifts came anywhere close to our friend’s, but when the second grandchild appeared on the scene, I wanted things to be equal to that of the first and the same for all the ones that followed.

I am beginning to realize this is my issue. At their ages, our six grands do not know or even care, what things cost. They do know what they like and want and are as thankful for the small ticket items as much as the larger ones. Toys are still coveted at the ages they are now, but I am seeing that our first grandchild, now age 9, loves trips, adventures, and experiences almost as much.

On visiting each of their homes, it is obvious that none are deprived of anything. Our eldest daughter has the “one item only” rule for grandparents at Christmas—tough to abide by at first, but very understandable. Her in-laws decided, maybe upon seeing their playroom, to pay for a family beach trip every other year with other hands-on help in the off-year. More presence, less presents. I definitely think they are on to something.

Even though we do not live in the same town as any of them right now, we do our best to be with them as much as possible. We have set plans every year that get everyone together and times that just work out that way. We will get together at the beach and mountains, meet up at the zoo and aquarium, at special school and sports events, birthdays and holidays. These are wonderful, fun-filled times, but it is the one-on-one times I adore.

Staying with them while the parents are out of town gives us the time to really get to know them. I learn a lot about their likes and dislikes when we are playing a game, building with Legos, going on a walk, playing in the yard, eating dinner, tucking them in at night. . . .

Our daughters probably could not, with few exceptions, tell you every present they received from their grandparents, but they can recall in vivid detail the times spent with them. The same goes for me. It is the visits with my grandparents that I cherish to this day. This is what I hope our grandchildren will hold dear when they think of their Gigi and Pabo.

Of course, there will always be presents. Who doesn’t love opening a wrapped gift? However, I may adjust my feeling the need to bring or buy something every time we see our grandchildren. I want our presence to make more of the memories than the presents.