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Grandparents' gifting guided

December 11, 2005|By Daniel J. Sernovitz

daniels@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - Betty Crampton doesn't claim to know much about I-Pods or Xboxes.

Downloadable music and video games are not her forte. Then again, she doesn't need to know about those things to bring joy to her three grandchildren during the holidays.

"My biggest thing is just pleasing the grandkids, that's my only motivation," said Crampton, a 66-year-old Hagerstown resident. "Sometimes, I take the kids shopping and let them pick out what they want. And, of course, there are a few surprises."

Instead of keeping up with the latest trends in toys or presuming to know what her grandchildren, ages 5, 9 and 12, want, Crampton said she has no qualms about asking them, and then asking their parents, to get the most appropriate holiday gifts.

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Grandchildren often can depend upon their grandparents to get them the toys their parents won't allow, but as the holidays approach, grandparents such as Crampton have discovered the best way to give gifts is to check with their children to make sure they aren't disrupting the household.

"We always recommend that the gift-giver start with the parent and make sure ... they're thinking of giving something the parents will approve of," said Kelley Coates-Carter, spokeswoman for AARP Maryland. "There's just some simple things that people can do to keep the lines of communication open, to keep the peace."

Coates-Carter said today's generation of grandparents is just as inclined as those of prior generations to overindulge when it comes to their grandchildren, a well-intentioned inclination that can lead to trouble when grandparents buy gifts for their grandchildren that their own children have prohibited from their homes.

"I think, pretty much, it's still the same," Coates-Carter said. "It's just that, for some, others have a little more difficult time with their relationships."

Instead of splurging on extravagant gifts, Coates-Carter suggests grandparents try to establish an annual tradition when it comes to gift-giving by buying things such as books, dolls or other items grandchildren will appreciate long after the holidays have passed.

Hedgesville, W.Va., resident Virginia Smith, for example, said she makes candy and cookies for her grandchildren every year. Smith said that one year, she decided not to make the goodies, which include peanut brittle, to the disappointment of her grandchildren. She has made the cookies and candies every year since.

"I make the homemade candies and cookies, and they love that," Smith said.

For those inclined toward gift-giving, though, Coates-Carter said, above all, communication is key.

On Black Friday, Crampton gathered her grandchildren for a trip to Toys "R" Us and Valley Mall, accompanied by one of her daughters, to browse the stores and identify the top toys. As they were waiting, her grandchildren ticked off a quick list of things they wanted for the holidays.

Zachary, the youngest of Crampton's grandchildren, immediately seized upon a toy rocket launcher as his top gift. He then ran to grab the nearest Toys "R" Us catalog and ticked off a larger list.

Denise Crampton, Betty Crampton's daughter-in-law, said her mother-in-law can be forgiven for the occasional extravagance, even though, for the most part, the two collaborate on gift-giving ideas.

"She does like to (overindulge) every once in a while, but (my husband) says she's their grandmother, that's her right," Denise Crampton said.

Giving too much is different than giving too loudly, Denise Crampton said.

"She would always find a way, my mother-in-law, of giving us the noisy toys," Denise Crampton said, quickly adding, "Eventually, down the line, I'll find a way of bringing the toys to her home."

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