DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am the parent of a vivacious, bright, delightful toddler. She just celebrated her second birthday at a small family get-together (five adults, including myself, as well as my daughter and toddler niece). A not-insignificant part of the decision to skip a large party was that I would rather mark occasions with experiences, rather than things. The party, and playing with her cousin, was a blast!
The issue arose when we had cake and gifts after dinner. My mother loves her granddaughters, but by her own admission does not relate to them very well. As such, she tends to overindulge them a bit. This is fine by me occasionally, but I strive to make sure that my daughter is not materialistic; her gift from me was a baby doll she’d been coveting.
So I was a bit surprised when she opened a gift (one of seven) from my mom and it was a tablet! I politely thanked my mother, as did my daughter, who had no idea what it was, and promptly asked to be excused to go play with her doll.
While I respect people’s choices to give their toddlers technology, it’s not the way I choose to raise mine. She watches TV, but it is always with one of her parents, and it is never used as a babysitter. There are times when I come home after work and would love to disappear into my smartphone and shut out the world, but I work hard to teach my daughter that our time together is precious and remain fully engaged.
My mother meant well with this gift, but she went way overboard, and I am unsure how to handle it. Is there any way to bring this up to her without coming off as incredibly ungrateful? I worry about this becoming a precedent, and what future Christmases and birthdays will bring!
GENTLE READER: How adorable. Miss Manners is, of course, talking about you, not your daughter, although she is sure that your daughter is, too.
Congratulations on encouraging your child to socialize, rather than being dominated by technology -- and in foregoing materialism in favor of ... baby dolls? (Rather than what, Miss Manners is not sure. What would be more material for a 2-year-old? A car?)
Forgive Miss Manners’ cynicism. She is in total agreement with you that these are worthy goals for child-rearing, and sincerely hopes that you will be the first parent in the history of modern America to enforce them successfully.
Barring that, however, she reminds you that grandparents do not take kindly to being told what they may or may not buy for their grandchildren -- and will likely share Miss Manners’ cynicism about your rearing a child who completely eschews technology in favor of socializing.
Miss Manners warns you that these conversations will likely be irksome to you, if you choose to have them. She recommends instead that you spare all parties, thank your mother, and make rules about technology that you have the ability to enforce when your daughter is old and aware enough to show interest -- which she soon will be.
In the meantime, enjoy your new tablet. Miss Manners is certain that your gratitude to your mother will be genuine the next time you are on a long journey with your child and find yourself suddenly eager to share it.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, email@example.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)