Ah, for the good old days — just a few short years ago — when the grandkids were one, two, and three. Christmas shopping was a breeze! I couldn't make a bad choice. Everything I picked out and brought home was perfect.
"Mom, I love the matching dresses!" one daughter gushed. “I love the Frosty hat and mittens," said the other.
I love the toys!
I love the books!
I love everything!
That’s all I heard.
I was in Grandparent Heaven. I bought a Fisher-Price zoo, a farm, even the Christmas manger. I bought extra little people. I bought a tea set and a tractor. I bought Christmas sweaters with reindeer on them. I bought stuffed animals and puzzles. They were all hits. I was a hit. I knew my audience and I was on my game.
Now, just a few years later, I am as uncool as Andy Williams. Well, not to the one-year-old. He still likes the toys I choose. But the others? Not so much.
Last week, I found an enormous (I was at Costco, where everything is enormous) Tinker Bell coloring/sticker book, which I loved. I stood in the aisle balancing it, then caressing it and turning its huge pages, lost in sweet reverie remembering when I was a kid and sticker books were my favorite things.
My books were a lot smaller, of course, and the stickers were square, just one to a page, and I never, ever had a Tinker Bell book. Davy Crockett, yes. And zoo animals. And birds. The birds were alphabetical: Atlantic Puffin. Bald Eagle. Canada Goose. But no fairies. No Tinker Bell. No Tinker Bell accoutrements. Nothing like this.
This was amazing. I bought it and hurried home to show it to my daughter and she said, "Oh, Mom, Charlotte is going to LOVE it." Which was nice, right? The exact response I wanted.
Except that I’d bought the book for Amy, who is eight, not Charlotte, who is three.
A Mysterious Transformation
How does this happen? How do you go from being a savvy, hip Mimi who picks out the world’s best presents to the kind of grandma who would buy a 13-year-old a hat with a pompom on it?
“Mom. See where it says 'three and up'? That means that it's for a three-year-old," my daughter explained to me gently and sweetly, and not for the first time.
I know what the label means, but I simply do not believe it. Why wouldn’t an eight-year-old love this book?
"Believe it, Mom," she said.
A few days later, I was certain I’d come out of my slump when I discovered a lightweight Star Wars laptop computer for just $39.95. Adam and Matty are six, and they are obsessed with Star Wars. They play Star Wars every day, watch the movies over and over, and dressed up as Darth Vader and R2-D2 for Halloween.
"Learn math, music, spelling, and more," I read online. "Thirty action-filled activities engage your child and develop fundamental skills."
Sold. I bought two of them. And drove directly home, eager to show off this latest acquisition.
"Mom. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but Adam and Matty play Star Wars games on my computer. They know how to spell. They can read. They would have liked this last year. But not this year. I'm sorry."
I bet they won’t be thrilled with the footed penguin pajamas I ordered for them and their sisters, either.
Don’t worry about buying things for the kids, my kids tell me. Take them to a movie. Let them sleep over. They love this. They love you.
My grandmothers used to give me a card with money in it. Every Christmas. Every birthday. Every occasion.
A few years into this grandmother thing, I’m beginning to understand why.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.