Grandma vs. Grandma

Read about being a mother of 12 as our resident 'Supermom' shares her wise parenting advice.

I ran into a friend at a used clothing store where I sometimes find bargains for my kids. I was surprised that she was looking at baby clothes, knowing that her children were grown. She explained that her grandchildren's other grandma was very wealthy and bought oodles of clothes for them. She felt that in order to earn her grandchildren's love, she needed to buy clothes for them, too.

The other grandma was shelling out the big bucks

In a gentle tone, I told my friend that used clothes couldn't compete with the fancy Gap baby clothes for which the other grandma was shelling out the big bucks. She couldn't help herself and the tears started flowing. I put my arms around her and did what any self-respecting friend would do: I told her all the ways in which her grandparenting trumped that of the other grandma.

Being available is more important than clothes from Baby Gap

The other grandma lives across the ocean, thousands of miles away, whereas my friend lives right down the street from her grandkids. She's always available to the grandkids as a refuge when mom and dad aren't so pleased with them, when they need a quiet place to study, or when they just want a bit of attention. My friend is talented with a crochet hook and makes the kids beautiful sweaters and blankets. I didn't have to fake my appreciation of her qualities. I do think that being available is more important than clothes from Baby Gap, as is something made by hand, with love.

All things considered, however, I wonder if her grandchildren appreciate the less commercial traits of my friend's grandparenting style. I thought about my own kids' relationship to their two grandmothers. My mother is practical, my husband's mother extravagant. It is natural that my kids enjoy my mother in-law's gifts more than those of my mother. I have to confess that this inspires a bit of jealousy on my part, and I find myself plugging my mother to the kids quite often.

I do think we need to teach children that store bought gifts cannot compete with time, attention, or love. I think the best way we can teach this to our children is to have them give their time to good causes. Perhaps they can visit a bedridden neighbor and offer to take out her garbage. Or, they can offer to play with the neighbor's toddler so the mother can nurse her new infant in peace.