‘Tis the season…to watch your children’s eyes glaze over as they drown in enough plastic crap to give a Montessori teacher a panic attack. Between Black Friday and New Year’s Day, kids face an overstimulating onslaught of gifts they don’t need. And, according to our reporting, key contributors to this tidal wave of presents are grandparents.
“The messaging around grandparenting is, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to spoil them!’” says California grandmother DeeDee Moore, founder of the Instagram account MoreThanGrand. “There’s this idea that being a grandparent means you get to go on these shopping sprees and buy and feed your grandchildren anything they want. That message is so pervasive, yet it’s detrimental both to the kids and to your relationship with their parents.” Moore devotes significant effort toward reprogramming grandparents in order to improve relationships around what she calls, “such a big issue.” For some grandparents, shopping for grandkids is a primary hobby. “But it’s not actually great for kids. And it’s not what most parents want.”
Take the case of Allison, a mom of two elementary schoolers: "My mother-in-law, who does not feel sufficiently included in our lives, tries to make her presence felt by buying the physically largest gifts she can get her hands on. These have included a trampoline when we lived with toddlers in a small NYC apartment and, most recently, both a puppet theater and an 'ice cream cart' for Christmas.”
Let’s be clear: We are not here to bash grandparents in a pandemic. As two years of relative isolation have taught us, grandparent relationships are more vital than ever. Kids need their grandparents. And overwhelmed parents are downright desperate for help. What no one needs is more clutter. And yet, intergenerational over-gifting remains an almost universal source of agita for families. It’s an emotional challenge, because for grandparents, these gifts are a sort of proxy for love. That Frozen II castle represents what grandma truly seeks to pass down, which is her love and a sense of connection. So to a grandparent, the rejection of a toy feels like the rejection of something deeper.