COLUMN: Grandmas go ga-ga over baby Gus

Friday, January 15, 2010 | 11:20 a.m. CST

It started innocently enough.

I was about five months pregnant, and a box showed up in the mail. And then another box. And another.

Before I knew it, my house was flooded with baby stuff. Not that I minded all that much. I mean, who doesn’t like freebies?

I’ve found that there are certain perks to having the first-born grandchild in the family. First and most important is that people buy you stuff — lots of stuff. Especially the baby’s grandparents.

For my husband and me, our son was a double-whammy: He’s the first-born grandchild in either of our families. Needless to say, our lives pretty much revolve around keeping our parents updated on their grandson’s doings.

My mother-in-law was the first to start with the boxes. Overnight, it seemed, she became obsessed with buying baby items. Box after box arrived in the mail; one week, we received three boxes. It got so bad that I finally had to ask her to stop. One of the things I had looked forward to during my pregnancy was baby shopping, and despite her good intentions, she was ruining it for me.

My own mother was fairly hands-off during my pregnancy, but when little Gus arrived, she traveled out here to help. At that point, her grandmotherly instincts kicked in. After a week, she went home and then the boxes started arriving.

I think I’ve figured out the point of all these boxes — they must be a backhanded grandma tactic to take ownership of the baby. You see, by sending gifts they are investing money and possibly time (if they made him something) into their grandson. By making such an investment in their grandchild, my husband and I are suddenly obligated to keep them up-to-date on all of our son’s doings and to meet their grandmotherly demands.

Since both of Gus’ grandmas live in Pennsylvania, pictures are highest on the demand list. Just the other day my mother demanded that I e-mail her new pictures of Gus because I hadn’t “in a really long time.” It had been about three days.

And when I do send pictures, I get an e-mail from my mother-in-law demanding “details.” I mean, what kind of details can one give about a 4-month-old? “The real reason he looks so happy in that picture, Ma, is because he just filled his diaper. And here’s a photo of him covered in his own drool. Precious, isn’t it?”

The gifts investment apparently also covers “grandma time.” When my in-laws came to visit over Thanksgiving, I tried to set rules when it came to Gus’ bed time and such. After the first day and a half, I noticed that my mother-in-law had developed a weird growth on her shoulder that bore a striking resemblance to my son. I wanted to offer to help her with it, but she seemed so content that I left her alone.

I have a sneaking suspicion that my mother will develop a similar growth when she comes to visit next month.

I know, I know. These two new grandmas are just excited to be at this stage in their lives, where they can spoil the living daylights out of their grandkids and then send them back home to mom and dad when the kids get bratty. And I’m sure they also are tickled pink to see their own children become parents. My son is lucky to have such loving grandparents. But I can’t help but laugh at their antics.

My mother just informed me that another box is in the mail for me; she must be making certain her reservation for next month still stands. I’m starting to think I might have to keep a spatula and nonstick cooking spray on hand whenever the grandmas come to visit.

Jen Russell is a night news editor at the Missourian. When she's not busy meeting the grandmothers' demands, she welcomes your comments at

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