Are You Guilty of Gift Giving Competition?

by Donne Davis on December 17, 2012

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Are you caught up in the gift giving frenzy this holiday season? Do you wonder whether the gifts you give your grandchildren will be as good as the “other” grandma’s? It’s easy to feel a bit competitive during this time of year. The media feeds the frenzy with Black Friday stories topping the news for days before and after Thanksgiving and doesn’t let up for the rest of the year.

Gift giving competition can get out of hand and create an expectation that feeds the need to continue it. Overindulgence isn’t healthy for children and some parents are putting the brakes on excessive gift giving.

I asked one of my grandma friends if she and her other grandma counterpart ever got competitive with gifts. In years past, they both indulged in voluminous gift giving. She happily bought Christmas gifts for her grandkids all year, so by Christmas, she had a bunch of gifts for each grandchild. They would tear through them, not paying much attention to the gift or who gave it. The other grandma was even more productive and generous, giving each child about 40 gifts, many of them handmade.

This year her daughter-in-law announced that each set of grandparents could only give ONE gift to each grandchild! She thought the kids have too much stuff. My friend was delighted. It’s simpler, more meaningful, and less wasteful.

Many grandmas sometimes feel like they’re loved for what they give rather than who they are. It’s easy to fall into that trap of insecurity. They think they have to show their love by giving their grandchildren presents. But our true gifts are not “things.” Our inner traits and unique talents are what make us loveable to our grandchildren.

My daughter once paid me the highest compliment: “Mom, you don’t have to bring the girls toys,” she said. “You’re their favorite toy!”

I’ve never forgotten that and feel so blessed to have received that validation because I do put my all into being present when I’m with my two granddaughters.

There’s a temptation to want to prove our love with things because kids get excited with things. But kids also get excited when you play hide and seek with them, or board games, read or draw or tell them stories. The best gifts are time well spent sharing activities that bond you together and create memories they’ll look back on with fondness.

That’s what my grandma friend Carol decided to do for her grandchildren. She creates handmade “credit cards,” which she laminates and gives to her grandchildren for pony rides, pedicures, and other fun activities that they can do together. Another grandma friend, Frances, put her foot down this year and said: No more toys! She’s giving her granddaughter a small jewelry box that she always admires and her grandson a pair of little cymbals that he always plays with when he comes over.

When you feel yourself getting caught up in gift giving competition with the other grandparents, remember to:

  • Focus on the positive and speak favorably about your grandchild’s other grandparents.
  • Appreciate the other grandparents’ strengths.
  • Remember your shared goal of loving and nurturing your grandchild. Children thrive when they have lots of grandparents who love them.
  • Get to know each other and make a point to get together some time.
  • Remember your child’s partner was raised by this couple – get to know how they contributed to his/her life.
  • Have a generosity of spirit and be accepting.
  • Let go of your desire to be the most important grandparent.

{ 2 comments }

Donne Davis December 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Thanks for sharing the quote – I totally agree.

Susan Adcox December 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm

40 gifts! Wow. I’ve never been in that league. I used to give the grands four or five gifts each, but now that there are seven of the little critters, I’m down to two or three apiece. I would happily move it down to one gift apiece, but it’s so hard to buy one gift that’s equal in cost. Add another gift, and it’s easier. You have the option of one expensive gift plus one inexpensive gift, or two moderately expensive gifts. I like this quotation that I saw on Twitter recently: “In bringing up children, spend on them half as much money and twice as much time.”

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