Guest post: Love by chequebook

chequebooksAnnie Murchie knows the real secret to making a child happy and it’s not with expensive gifts…

I have to declare from the start that I am known in the family as silly granny. I shall never know which daughter- or son-in-law christened me thus but I will readily admit to be lacking in most areas of modern day technology and devices. For example, car seats: my children happily bounced around freely in all our cars…admittedly one of them maintains that they all experienced near-death moments before they even started school.

I confess that in a dreaded Ikea car park I accosted a young mother to help me erect and another to collapse a three-wheeler designer pushchair. I will never manage to tweet or text. That is the confession of a silly granny.

I may be a Luddite but I still have pretty strong views on many a subject. And this time of the year another dominates my mind. It is LBC – not the LBD that every woman’s page tells us to wear – I mean love by chequebook. It goes on all year round but was obvious this past Christmas.

I was horrified to read over the holiday season that grannies are now competing to give the biggest present in order to be the favourite grandparents. If I were so inclined to enter this competition (and I am most definitely not), I would be a loser, since most of my rival grandparents are very rich.

But more importantly, I can’t believe that grandparents aren’t tuned in to parents’ feelings of being pressured on all sides by offspring, media and guilt to buy, buy, buy to prove to their children how much they love them.

I have seen grown men who are captains of industry with nerves of steel when making multimillion pound decisions turn to jelly at the hands of a 15-year-old demanding a computer game for some electronic box to which he seems surgically attached and mostly mute in the isolation of his bedroom.

“Will you love me and know I love you if I buy it for you?”

“If I buy you a new iPhone will you forget that I was so busy making money that I never read you a bedtime story and I have now divorced your mother?”

These are the sad unspoken pleas of a divorced father begging for some sign that he is loved.

As we saw over this holiday, the LBC behaviour is not confined to the high-earning professional middle classes, in which both parents are on a treadmill of career climbing. Witness the loan shark who prowls the housing estate offering high interest loans to low-income families. Christmas is bonus time for the tallyman and the catalogue agent; £10 per week for what seems an eternity will buy a present that will be forgotten in months.

None of us are innocent of this crime of LBC. Husbands buy jewels to assuage their guilt; I send huge bunches of flowers to an Alzheimic aunt instead of visiting, so we all live in glass houses to some degree.

Instead of just whingeing and being a grumpy silly granny I have a suggestion for all beleaguered parents (and grandparents): now’s the time start planning for next Christmas and laying the groundwork with the children and each other for a less tangible but more valuable chequebook of promises. Ones like: “I promise to take you to that football match” or “I promise we’ll spend a weekend under canvas.”

You will all know what children really want. Mostly it is your time – make a voucher for a whole day full of attention. In fact, why wait till December to put it into practice. It’s a good thing to start doing today.

 Annie Murchie–When Annie met Sally

Annie Murchie is a granny and chef who’s just launched her second cookbook, A Taste in Store, in association with Waitrose in Stroud, Gloucestershire.

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