We are entering birthday season at our house; Grandma’s, which was Thursday, marks the beginning of it. Counting grandparents, there are two birthdays in April, two in May, two in June, two in July, one in August, and one in October. Amusingly, most of the adults are of the mindset that we have too much stuff as it is, and would rather spend some time together sharing a meal. The kids, however, are at the “I want” age.
We don’t have a problem seeing to it that each child has a couple of cool new toys for his or her birthday, along with some gathering of friends that usually involves either bowling pins or a teenager in an oversized rodent costume. It is, however, becoming increasingly apparent to us that we need to teach our children that they cannot, and will not, get everything they want.
Mr. Man and Baby Guy are still very easy on that score. For Bugaboo and Beanie, we’ve asked all the grandparents if, instead of an expensive present from a store, they would be willing to pay for an activity (either a sport or a class, since both girls have very wide-ranging interests) and maybe one piece of equipment for the activity if they really feel a need to have something to gift-wrap. Even with that, though, I wonder if we’re missing the mark.
My grandparents were completely awesome people, but without consulting a photo album, I could not tell you what they gave me for any Christmases or birthdays. What I could tell you is the details of hundreds of afternoons spent doing things with them, even if it was just quacking at the frozen ducks in the grocery store with Pop-Pop.
Because my parents are divorced and my Dad has remarried, our tribe has been blessed with five living grandparents. All of them are older now than my grandparents were when I was a child, partly because my husband and I had our children later in life. Thinking about those afternoons with my grandparents, however, has started me thinking that the best gift of all, the thing that isn’t a thing and hence cannot be emplaced on an Amazon wish list, is an afternoon with each grandparent, to hear the stories, see the pictures, make the old family recipes, cut the paper dolls, make the baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, plant the flowers . . . you get the idea.
They’ll probably still get the toys, but I’m guessing that in twenty years, the memories that they’ll have are not what lay beneath the bright wrappings and ribbons, but of how to bake Grandma’s sugar cookies, grow Nonno’s Italian beans, keep Grandpa’s baseball scorecard, paint Nana’s flowers, and sing Deedaw’s beautiful songs. As Bugaboo prepares to turn 5 and Beanie to turn 4, it seems to me that this is the time to introduce the notion that the very best gifts from our grandparents are the things they have to teach us. I don’t want our children to remember their grandparents as ATMs that dispensed presents. I want them to remember them as the remarkable, loving, and enormously talented people they are.
Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for the rich blessing of grandparents You have bestowed upon Your blessings. Please help us teach them that these men and women are a great treasure from You, and to treasure the years You have allowed them to remain here and be parts of their grandchildren’s lives. Please bless me with me the wisdom and the patience to help them understand that the greatest gifts their grandparents will give them can’t be broken, outdated, or returned for store credit — and to help their grandparents understand the same thing, if they’ve forgotten.