We have all been there - that is "there" before you have experienced the actual "there". Like when a bunch of Texans laugh about how big the snakes are and you laugh, too, at their outrageous stories. Then a snake eats your car and you aren't laughing anymore. I will never live in Texas. If my name was Eve, we would still be living in the Garden of Eden. I run screaming at the sight of a stick that looked like a snake, much less an actual living and talking belly crawler. But I digress...
So before I became Granma, I laughed at the stories that it might be possible to lose points for giving certain gifts with the most loving of intentions. Well, except for really loud gifts like drum sets. I knew from my original parenting gig that such would not be classified as a gift, but rather revenge, and I don't want to be a vengeful Granma. Nor would I ever give a snake for a gift, even to a budding herpetologist.
Now a decade into Granma-ing, I have some words of wisdom to pass on to up and coming Granmas and Grampas. You may laugh, but trust me, there is wisdom here born of trial and error. If you want to stay in the Garden of Eden as long as possible, heed my words. Gifts to grandboys and girlies inherently have points attached - three sets of points, in fact: parent points (P), kid points (K), and Granma points (G). Some examples:
1. Mylar balloons, which last forever, though they only float for a few days. Kids LOVE them! They run around with their eyes on the ceiling, squealing with joy (until they run into a door jam or something). They provide hours of entertainment at a very low price, and as an added bonus, they give parents hours of exercise pulling them down from heights inaccessible to midget arms. Granmas love balloons and how they hearken back to days of old. Points: -5(P) + 4(K) + 3(G) = +2. Pretty benign. Go for it, especially for birthdays!
2. Large toys, especially those that must be used indoors, like cardboard building blocks. Again, kids LOVE them! And their father had wonderful memories of them! But their mother must find a place to keep them and endure the he-knocked-over-my-tower tears. +4(P1) - 5(P2) + 7(K) + 4(G) = Go for it, but apologize upfront to your daughter-in-law.
3. Not all gifts are specifically for the grandboys and girlies. For example: changing diapers. Everyone benefits from this gift, including neighboring noses, but none more than the parents. For this reason, consider giving this gift liberally after #2 above, especially if you smell the #2 in their diaper. +10(P) + 2(K) - 2(G) = a whole lot of bonus points if your tally is running low. By the way, these points can easily and quickly double and triple if said rump covering has been combating the flu or teething for a few days.
4. Books, and educational toys in general. These are great parent pleasers and with a Google assist, can be a great kid pleaser as well. This Granma is pretty partial to this type of gift. The biggest problem tends to be age appropriateness, either to the high side or the low side. The low side isn't so bad if there are younger siblings, unless it was intended as a birthday gift and the recipient calls notice to such gap. Equally, though, too much to the high side and it falls on parents' shoulders to assemble/explain/supervise. This is rarely a problem with books. Build their library. +7(P) + 5(K) + 4(G) = Win for everyone. BTW, the G points would have been higher, but have you priced children's books lately?!
I could probably go on endlessly, and there are individual family variables that might affect your actual score. I didn't even mention stuffed animals. There is a reason for that: it's likely already hard enough to find the child in their bed, though the child knows and will panic if even one such cuddly thing is missing. It is virtually impossible for a net positive score no matter how positive the K and G elements. RESIST the urge to buy them, no matter how cute!
There. A public service announcement worthy of blog space: cuddly, cute, adorable stuffed animals can practically and easily fall into the same category of Eve's nemesis. Words to the wise. You are welcome!