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Play grandma to girlfriend’s girls

Hi, Carolyn!: Over the years, I’ve read numerous complaints about grandparents who showed favoritism to some grandkids based on gender, adoption or step situations. Each time, I’ve been outraged that adults could be so unfair to innocent children.

But I’m finding the situation isn’t so easily resolved when you’re in the middle of it. My husband and I became grandparents a year ago. We were beyond thrilled! We don’t have a lot of money, but we cut some corners to buy cute gifts on the appropriate occasions.

Now … my stepson has started dating a woman with two young children.

Anyway … with the holidays coming up, I don’t know what to do. Do we spend an equal amount on these other two kids? I don’t want to be a jerk to these two little girls, but I also don’t want to keep diverting money from our granddaughter to a string of kids we might not see again. Am I being a total jerk? I just want to be a … – Good Grandma

Being a good grandma is about the kids, not you. Your first paragraph says you already know this.

That means any gifts you give to family members are investments in them as people vs. investments in your relationship with them.

When you look at these two little girls that way, then you’ll see that their tenuous status in your family has no bearing on the way you divvy up the gifts. These are children innocent of their parents’ … whatevers. What they need – possibly even more than your granddaughter does – is an environment where they’re valued just for being, without contingencies such as “gender, adoption or step situations.” So they get a third of your gift allotment, a third of your hugs, a third of your attention and all of your heart.

Should the parents’ relationship crash and the girls abruptly exit your lives, then you will remain the nice lady who gave them the gift of acceptance without regard for their relative value to her. Too young to grasp that is not too young to feel its light.