Q. When I married for the second time, I gained a wonderful stepdaughter who shares her life and her children with me. These two little girls, now 4 and 5, are my grandchildren.
This family lives a few hours away, but I usually visit them every month, in addition to holidays and other special occasions. On these occasions I typically bring the girls a book, a small toy, clothing or all of the above, and now they look for these presents as soon as I get there. The 5-year-old even asks for things that are often expensive, although I’m not sure she knows how much they cost.
While I love to pick up gifts for my grandchildren, they are usually impulse buys, so it makes me uncomfortable to fill their specific requests unless it is for a birthday or for Christmas.
Am I overdoing these gifts? Should I cut back? Or is cutting back even necessary?
A. It’s hard to know who is more generous: your stepdaughter for inviting you to visit every month (and for special occasions, too!) or you, for treating your grandchildren to all those delicious presents.
The gifts you bring to your grandchildren should be based on your whims, however, not theirs. The girls will tell you what they want — children always do — but so what? Just listen to their suggestions, give them a grandmotherly smile and leave most of the toys at the store, especially if they are grander, fancier or more expensive than you can afford or better than they would get from their parents. That could simply turn gift-giving into a mean little competition between you and your stepdaughter, and she would win it every time. A mother’s love trumps anything you could ever buy.