Transitions With Jean Blog

From your heart not your wallet

Dec 1, 2023

This week, I had fun when two of my grandboys helped decorate my house for Christmas; they are 12 and 7 years old. What a treat for me.  Hopefully, they thought it was a treat, too.

Like many of you, every Christmas decoration in my house has a history.  I’ve tried to put notes on them to help my recollection.  As we pulled items out, I would tell the boys a bit about the stories.

We talked about their parents when they were little.  They loved seeing ornaments that their mom and dad had created. 

They promised they would always come and help me decorate.  (You and I both know how that promise will turn out.)

We also talked about gift giving.  I have always tried to teach the joy of giving.  My younger grand said quite matter-of-factly, “Grandma, I don’t have any money!”  

I laughed. “What makes you think you need money to give a great gift?” I asked.  So, we talked about things they can give their parents for Christmas.  

Readers, this list works for older children, too – even if you are in your 50’s and 60’s.  While we are at it, parents, and grandparents, you can turn the tables and give these gifts to your children/grandchildren.

Here are some ideas:

Give a meaningful hand-written message.  I told them they could get out a nice piece of paper and write a message to Mom about how much she means to them or write about a favorite memory.  I have old picture frames around here.  I offered to share one with each of them so they could put their gift in frames.

Plan a playdate.  There is nothing like the gift of self.  Schedule a couple of hours for something that is fun to do together.  How about doing a puzzle or having mom teach you a family recipe?  Schedule to watch Grandma’s favorite movie with her, go to church together, play a board game, go through scrapbooks together.  Time is a gift and a memory.

Kids of any age, a favorite for your parents is a gift-certificate for help around the house.  Offer to do a chore that is at your ability level: to dust, vacuum, dust-bust the stairs, wash the mirrors, take down the tree after Christmas… get creative.

Teenagers, how about offering to record snippets of stories on your phone?  Suggest that Grandpa pick about five items in the house that have the most meaning to him.  Ask him to pick up each item and briefly tell its story – about one minute should be sufficient.  Record each story separately. Help him download them onto his computer or phone or tablet, so he can see them over and over.  You might learn something that will amaze you.  Just being able to share his story with you is a wonderful gift you are giving him.

Back to the grandboys, after 3 hours, they were worn out.  We had lunch, and Grandpa took them home.  Thank goodness, because I was worn out too.  Time for a long winter’s nap.

Jean Long Manteufel writes a column on the first Sunday of each month about life changes associated with aging. Send your questions to or call 920-734-3260.