Let me preface this post with a few important points. I absolutely know that there are more “important” issues in the world, and I am so deeply aware that many children struggle to have their basic needs met. I have spent 5+ years of my own career working in inner city schools in Louisiana, so I have seen firsthand the tangible effects of hunger, poverty, abuse and more. I also know that having living and involved grandparents at all is a HUGE blessing, and it’s not one we take for granted.
That said, after conversing with many friends, I also know that I am not alone in these feelings. While well-meaning, all of the plastic tchotchkes that enter our home via the Grandparent Express are ultimately wasted money. The truth is that the plastic doesn’t hold up, and a lot of those drug store toys break (Rite Aid, I am look at you) which ironically can cause a safety and choking hazard for the babies among us. These days schools go WAY overboard celebrating all the holidays and so what you don’t see is that by the time they receive your Valentine’s Goody Bag, they’ve already gotten 76 other knick knacks at preschool. A lot of us are drowning in stuff.
What a lot of our kids need is LESS stuff and MORE quality time. Many of us cringe every time we see another goody bag of toys and holiday Pez dispensers enter our homes because if we have more than 1 kid then of course you have to be equitable and who in the world actually gets through the 3 chocolate bunnies AND 74 heart shaped lollipops? You get our drift. It’s just so much stuff, and while we know it comes from a genuine place of love (we KNOW it’s hard to resist the urge to buy it – we see the Target Dollar Spot, too!) … we have some other ideas for you.
While we may not show it, a lot of us are living paycheck to paycheck. Wondering how we will fund our daughter’s dancing habit. Curious if we will be able to put a small dent in any of our children’s college tuitions. Worrying at night about when, if ever, we’ll be able to retire. The candy and plastic is sweet, but every time that urge strikes, a simple $5 to $10 deposit in a savings account would truly accrue over time and make a meaningful impact on our children’s futures.
Kids love to get out and explore! Stuff play passes to indoor playgrounds or movie tickets in those plastic eggs instead of candy. Or take them to the zoo if you’re a local grandparent and physically able. Research has proven that the memories associated with experience are WAY likelier to lead to happiness than material stuff, so this is honestly way more influential than any gift bag ever would be.
You know what our kids love most of all? The gift of time. They love simple things like board games and books and interactive play and garden hoses. Indulge them in simple time (bonus points if mom and/or dad can escape alone for a while) and you’ll win their love in no time. Learn about their interests and chat with them about whatever strikes their fancy, be it football or snakes or ballet. They even love the pure joy of showing guests their bedroom and special belongings. The gift of time is probably the most treasured of all. If you’re long distance, face timing and phone calls can absolutely serve the same purpose. But don’t feel like when you do show up it has to be with a gift in tow! Ironically not everyone’s love language is gift giving (or receiving) anyway, so learn your grandchild’s love language and differentiate based on kid.
We Appreciate You!
At the end of the day, know you are loved and appreciated. You raised us after all, and we think we turned out okay?! We just secretly get a little sad to see all the dollars invested in the plastic things and random gifts when really what our kids desire most is to know you and feel your love. And when we step on those toys in the middle of the night walking across the house to soothe a screaming baby, we are, in fact, secretly screaming at you. In the nicest way possible.