My friend and I were walking around Target catching up, trying to have a deep conversation while contemplating our purchases. She held up a pair of pink jogging pants and said she had to get them for her daughter even though her parents treat her kids to back to school shopping each year.
And my heart kind of sunk.
I know having parents who help you out financially isn’t the marker of a genuine relationship. I realize it’s more about quality time and support but…
When I hear my friends talk about the back-to-school shopping, the clothes, the camp, the haircuts, and the gym memberships their parents provide for them and their family, it’s a trigger for me. My heart aches, and I can’t help but think, I wonder what that’s like.
When I hear them mention how their mom came and stayed for four days to entertain their kids so they could do a deep clean, and when they accompany them on family vacation so they can have a night out with their husband, or they come over and help them dig in their garden before the big July 4th party, I can’t help but think, If I had that kind of love and support in my life, who would I be?
My relationship has always been strained between me and my parents, and I’ve been self-sufficient for as long as I can remember. After I started working as a teen, I was on my own as far as buying school clothes or getting my hair done. In college, I had a job and never asked for, or got, a dime from my parents.
I know this is how they are, and it’s not for lack of means. They are doing just fine financially. They just aren’t generous people — not with their time or their money.
When they are available they ask me and my kids to do something if they are in the mood. There have been countless times I’ve asked for help and they are “too busy.”
When I got a divorce, my father said he was “sorry” and has never offered to come over and check on anything despite being a very handy guy who is retired and always has a project going on at his house. He lives 6 miles away and can’t be bothered. Years ago, I stopped asking him when he was going to visit his grandkids.
Just because this is how they’ve always been, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel pangs of resentment, hurt, and jealously when I go to the movies with another mom and she pulls out a $50 and says, “My mom gave this to me this morning and told me to treat the kids to popcorn and candy.”
Or when my sister tells me how her mother-in-law bought her daughter an iPhone and helped her throw a party.
Or when I see my neighbors outside every Sunday morning visiting with their parents.
Or when my best friend tells me how her mom treated her daughter to dance class and went to every practice.
I’ve felt guilty about my feelings around this subject for a while. I never say anything though — my friends and sisters deserve this kind of love and support. The fact that they talk about their situation with me doesn’t give me the right to make it about me and cause them to feel like they aren’t allowed to share.
And I’d never comment about it to my kids’ grandparents. Let’s face it, at this point I’m pretty sure they are set in their ways.
I realized lately I’m not some brat who just wants things and money and time from her parents.
The generosity of other grandparents effects me because I know when they are helping out and being generous with their time and money it’s because they love their grandkids. But it’s also because they love their children so much they want to help them out however they can.
They want to be generous with their time and money and do things to make their kids happy.
When they buy clothes or chip in for classes or treat their grandkids to a haircut and ice cream, that’s their way of showing their love to their grand kids and to their kids.
I have no idea what it’s like to have one of my kids’ grandparents buy them an outfit or treat them to anything other than a birthday meal out and a small gift.
There have been many years my kids don’t even get birthday gifts or Christmas gifts from my parents, and they live within a few miles of us.
I’m not saying grandparents should spoil their grandkids; this is about helping out and being a part of their lives.
Sometimes that means giving your daughter some cash and telling her to treat her kids to a movie.
And sometimes that means dropping your plans to come over and bake with your grandkids because you want to be present in their lives and help your own child out.
These moments, whether the cost money or not, are driven by love.
So when I hear my daughter mention her best friend got a new bike from her grandfather or we go out to eat and see a couple sitting their with their kids and their parents who insist on treating them, I do wonder what’s like, and I know she does too.
It’s not about the bike — it’s about having a generous grandparent who wants to share their time and money with the people they love — something my kids have never experienced and are starting to notice as they get older.
I know when my kids grow up and have kids of their own, I will give and do so much more for their kids than their grandparents are doing for them.
Not because I feel like I should or because I think it’s what grandparents should do; I’ll do it out of pure love for my grandkids and for my children.