In Her Words
Seeing Good in the bad
Dealing with gifts from grandparents
By: Stacy Elliott
My parents live 1,200 miles away from our family, which means that when we go to visit them, we stay for a long while, and vice versa. I love our time together, but it takes a mountain of patience for me to hold my tongue when my mother hauls out all the gifts and food she has so thoughtfully selected. Invariably, many of her well-meaning offerings fall into these inappropriate categories:
1. Forbidden toys: These include toy guns, swords and weapons of any kind. Just yesterday we showed up at her house, and she was wielding two oversized foam swords. She challenged my 4-year-old with a quick “on guard,” and they swashbuckled all over the house doing, in my view, the unthinkable- stabbing at each other and claiming “I got you!” when the other fell to the ground, feigning death.
2. Excessive gifts: I know this is a grandparent’s prerogative, but my mother takes this to the extreme. My parents show up in our driveway with a station wagon full of expensive toys. My boys then climb in the backseat and spend the next two hours searching through all the car pockets for their goodies. While it’s fun to see them open these toys, the impact of each gift is lessened due to the sheer volume of stuff they get. I’ve tried sending deposit slips for the boys’ savings accounts to my mother, urging her to use them whenever she feels the compulsion to buy them something. I can’t say I’m surprised that I haven’t seen any recent deposits from her.
3. Junk food: I realize a lot of kids consume pounds of sugar, but mine seem to go to the moon on it, so I seriously limit their intake. Not so with my mother: She’s handing out chips, candy and juice before, between and after every meal. When she thoughtfully asked me what kind of juice they could have at her house, I said white grape juice, assuming she would get the lower-sugar kind that comes in a box. At dinner she hauled out a glass bottle of sparkling white grape juice and proceeded to load each of them up with 38 grams of sugar. When I read the label to her, she shrugged and said that’s what I told her to get.
My father simply shakes his head and squares off with me when I say anything to diminish my mother’s fun. He thinks I’m way too uptight, and he has even taken to labeling me. “Here comes the sugar police” and “Everyone watch out, the toy patrol is on duty,” he teases. Maybe he has a point, but I distinctly remember that, when I was a little girl, we rarely had candy, gum or junk food in our house. We had a few nice toys to play with but nothing excessive, and we never had weapon-like toys. Nor were we allowed to chase each other through the house with our voices raised. (Granted, I did grow up with only one sister, but I don’t think that’s pertinent to my point.)
During my childhood, my parents were very strict about a lot of things, which I now see as an important part of raising well-mannered, respectful, healthy children. From my parents’ point of view, they’ve been strict, and now it’s time to have a little fun. I’m pretty sure my mother knows exactly the kind of scandal she’s creating in my household, and I’m equally sure her scandalous behavior is creating fond memories that my boys will keep with them forever.