Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guest Blog by my Good Friend and Writing Student, Kay Swatkowski,

A Guest Post for Grandmothers 

                                                                by Kay Swatkowski
Money Doesn't Grow On Trees

I wish it did.

I wouldn’t be greedy and I certainly wouldn’t take more than my share.  I’d use it for important things: food, clothing, shelter, transportation, shoes, comfortable furniture, nice appliances, dental work, gift card to the coffee shop, a membership to a health club, shoes, a relaxing vacation – something simple –  in the Rockies, maybe an RV to make the travel more affordable and comfortable and a good pair of hiking shoes– for safety reasons.  Yes, I’d just focus on the necessities.
Oh wait, there’s more.
The grandkids!  They are growing so fast.  THEY need shoes and that latest video game, a new book or two, and don’t they outgrow their bikes quickly. Hmmm…the latest lego set, arts and crafts supplies, a  swimming pool, that adorable outfit I saw at the outlet mall.  How about an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese finished off with a trip to an ice cream place?  Season tickets to amusement parks, sports fees, special equipment, favorite snacks, sleepovers with friends.
Summer camp, music lessons, a laptop that will help them with school.
But what about their parents? Working two jobs, paying mortgages, utilities, car payments, insurance. Not to forget all the things we mentioned above that loving parents work so hard to provide.
How I would like to alleviate their stress.  But, I don’t see that happening.
After all, money doesn’t grow on trees.
Sometimes our thinking about money is distorted, unhealthy. But there are a number of ways of thinking that can help us grow our money (even though it doesn’t grow on trees) allowing us the opportunity to be generous in giving to God, giving to our families and giving to people in need.
Ever since I discovered, much to my dismay, that money doesn’t grow on trees, there are some practical truths I find helpful:
  • All that we have comes from the loving hand of God.
  • We must have a healthy respect for money.  Money is not an end in itself.  It is a gift given to us to manage and use wisely and to meet our needs and to do good. It is a trust from God.

But, here is the real issue I am struggling with today.
What is the difference between being generous with our grandchildren and spoiling them?  Here is my confession. I want to give my grandkids everything – I don’t – but I admit that I want to.
What is the underlying mental attitude that will help  me to give joyfully with an open hand and at the same time  give responsibly? If we don’t find the key to this issue, we risk contributing to a distorted understanding of money and possessions that creates adults who  feel entitled, ungrateful, discontent, unsatisfied and sadly lack the ability to feel genuine joy and affirmation when gifts are given.
That is scary to me.
This is not a small issue.  I know that I will be working on this for month’s to come.  I hope you will share some of your ideas as well.  Here are some thoughts that are simply a result of a first round of brainstorming.  We will try to develop these topics more fully in the future.
These are some of the things I am going to work on.
  • I need to be clear in my own mind about the difference between want and need.  Sometimes it brings great delight to us and to the child to give a gift that is something they really want. Those can be special, loving moments.  I recall my grandfather giving me a birthstone necklace for my 7th birthday and how loved I felt by his generosity.But, having every want supplied every time is unhealthy.  We can all learn to do without some of the “wants” in life. We all need things to work towards and wait for.
  • I always need to  work in cooperation with the parents.  If parents believe we are “giving” too much, we need to respect that and back off a bit. Go to the parent with a question, “I was thinking of buying Josh _____.  But, I wanted to know what you think first.”
  • I need to replace occasional, cheaper gifts and trinkets with substantial items.  This shows kids that resisting the urge to fritter away their quarters for a plastic ring in a machine at the grocery store, results in something more substantial.  A once in a while experience such as this is a normal part of childhood, but so is having to wait for and work for  something better.
  • If you are able to be generous, perhaps a bank account or college fund is a good way to share what God has given you. Or invest in experiences the kids will remember – The Nutcracker, a special dinner, a night away, a major league baseball game. Take pictures. It is all about being together.
  • Decide in advance how much you can spend for certain gifts or occasions – not to be stingy or cheap – but to guard against overdoing it. Do you give more than one gift at Christmas? You might want to follow this plan: each child receives one gift they want; one gift they need; and one educational gift.  This might be a great way to prevent gift overload and be a tool parents can use to  limit the effects of consumerism at Christmas.
  • Notice if one of your grandchildren seems to be struggling with always wanting more or being discontent.  Make “relationship” building more intentional with this child.
  • Remember the best gift we can give is a conversation, eye contact, hugs, attendance at their events, support, security, family traditions, love and prayer–as well as responsiveness to genuine need when it arises.
I know this is not the end of my searching for healthy answers to this question.  It is something I need to work on for a while.
After all, money doesn’t grow on trees.   Kay's website, American Grandma
Check out Kay's new Kindle book on praying for your grandchildren - it's a guide to make pray more directed to our grandchildren's needs.   Buy One Endless Line of Faith:  30 Days of Prayer for our Grandchildren for all the grandmas in your life.  Click here

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