Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Memories are not about expensive gifts

My brother earns very well, much more than the rest of the family. He and his wife love our daughter, 11, and often take her along with their own son, 10, on vacations or outings and give her gifts that we would not be able to afford. My husband these days says that it is ok now, but could become awkward later, when they grow older. Do you think we should restrict this in some way—will she get used to this and then be unhappy with our level of spending/enjoyment when she understands such things later?

I would sincerely urge you not to worry about “what happens later" on this count. Let the child and your brother’s family enjoy these outings and gifts, given as they seem to be with love and big-heartedness. It is important and precious for a child to have another adult besides his or her parent who cherishes them. Besides the actual money spent on her, they are spending their time, affection and attention on your child, and for this, all you need to be is grateful and happy, cutting out the adult anxiety about how this will pan out.

Your worry about your brother setting a kind of benchmark of enjoyment that you will find difficult to match for your child—this is something many parents are afraid of. However, the ones who are totally at ease and unapologetic or bitter about what they can and cannot give to their children, need not have this fear. It would be a pity to curtail your child’s presence in their lives, only out of this anxiety about whether you can “match up". It is not a contest, and it’s best not to make it one.

As for reciprocation, while you cannot afford the vacations and gifts that your brother can, surely you can give their son a good time too, in different ways, right in your own home. Children may seem, today, to be extremely canny and “things-oriented", seduced as they are by advertisements, brands, names of holiday destinations, resorts and whatnot. However, a child of 10 can be equally happy, on another level, with a simple picnic outing to the hill slopes nearby, or right in your balcony. When you talk to any grown person about their childhood memories, what remains, however wealthy they were, is little things like, say, a freewheeling chat with an aunt and uncle who genuinely listen and enjoy a child’s company. So do spend some time and energy on thinking up ways to give the other child a good time too, in ways that you are comfortable and happy with. Do not be defensive about the simplicity of whatever your plan or gift is; this simply adds an adult complication, and the awkwardness, if any, is likely to come from such an attitude, rather than from any disparity in spending power, frankly.

Be careful not to transmit your hesitation and anxieties about the situation to your daughter—it would be a pity if she began to feel awkward about taking things from a loving uncle, and began to fear your displeasure on this count.

Gouri Dange is the author of More ABCs Of Parenting (Random House) and ABCs Of Parenting.

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