Q. Every time my parents come to visit my kids, they bring them presents. I've repeatedly asked them not to, but the gifts keep coming. However, the other day, my mom made a last-minute decision to stop by, and she came empty-handed. My children asked where their presents were, and my mom got all upset. She told me to explain to the girls that gifts should not be expected. Am I to blame for the expectations my folks created?
A. Part of you may want to wag your finger at Mom and say, "Told ya so." But instead of this unproductive approach, agree with her that you hate to see your kids display such a blatant case of the gimmes. Then explain that it's difficult to teach kids that Grandma isn't a walking toy store if she always arrives toting a Toys "R" Us bag. What would she think about limiting gifts to birthdays and holidays?
If she's the type who can't bear to come empty-handed, talk about things she could bring that don't come from a toy store. A toddler may be delighted by a pretty seashell or a piece of costume jewelry that Grandma doesn't wear anymore. Another idea is to suggest she bring the makings of an activity they could do together, such as ingredients to make cupcakes or supplies for an art project. Better yet, suggest they snuggle up with a book and read together -- the best gift of all.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, October 2004.