Being ‘pretend grandmother’ for two girls a joyful challenge

Kady McMurray is guest columnist.

I have no biological grandchildren, but I have “adopted” two little girls.

One of them is my goddaughter; I’ve known both of them since birth. I’m their Auntie Kady, but I call myself their “pretend grandmother.”

I live with my 15-year-old cat, Ollie. We enjoy our peace and tranquility until the Merry Marauders come to visit. Then we enter an alternate universe.

Pink babies and talking monkeys, glitter headbands, and scented markers. The girls rearrange my furniture, moving chairs, cushions, small tables and stools to accommodate their activities; drawing, watching videos and “helping” in the kitchen.

Did I mention that they are vegetarians? None of the old easy foods from my son’s childhood (hot dogs, Beanie Weenies, Spaghetti-Os, hamburger casseroles, Pop Tarts) work for them. They’re used to better and are already foodies.

They have so many special requests that I feel like a maitre d’, a short order cook and a ladies maid!

“Auntie Kady, can I have my blueberries ‘on the side?’ ”; “I like my pasta ‘al dente.’ ”

Excuse me?? “On the side?” “Al dente?” This from a 5- and an 8-year-old?

One girl doesn’t like tomatoes. The other won’t eat peanut butter. They eat only a little of whatever I make. I hate waste and usually end up eating the most astonishing bits and pieces of their leftovers as my dinner. The yellow yolk of a hard boiled egg (“I only like the white part”). The crusts of bread (they like it cut off). The browned parts of mac and cheese, (they only want the “white” noodles).

I gulp all this down with a generous portion of Pinot Grigio as I run baths, clear dishes, mop up sticky liquids and listen to “Kidz Pop” on Pandora while trying to coax Ollie from under the bed.

At bedtime, we begin our routine: jammies, toothbrushing and a bedtime story. The little one snuggles into my side, contentedly plucking at the loose skin on the back of my hand. When the story is over, I tuck them in. They say prayers and I reassure them that I will keep the bathroom light on, the door can remain halfway open and I will turn the night light on in the hall.

When I check on them five minutes later, they are out, sleeping like the little angels they really are. I’m totally exhausted but happy, knowing that we’ve had a good day and that tomorrow, they will go home.

Even though they can be a lot of trouble and have their moments of sulking or temper tantrums, it is usually I who request their visits because I love them and miss them and thoroughly enjoy their energy!

When I think about our time together, I hope I am teaching them something worthwhile, something about kindness, getting along with others and having respect for their elders.

They teach me humility. I admit that I am as vain as any other woman and think of myself as rather young and hip! The girls are honest to a fault when holding the mirror of reality up to me.

They often tell me that I am old.

“Why do you think I’m so old?” I ask.

My 5-year-old replies, “Because you have all those ruffles! ”

Better than wrinkles, I guess.

Once we were discussing whether they wanted to marry.

I said, “Maybe someday you will get married and I’ll be there to see you.”

They said, “You’ll be dead by then!”

A distinct possibility! They give me endless anecdotes to share with my friends who, like me, have survived parenthood and are trying to figure out grandparenthood in a totally new era of child rearing.

It’s harder now. Often, both parents work and by necessity, children are booked into sports activities, after-school programs, lessons and camps.

Thankfully, I have a lot of free time and a lot of love to give my “pretend grands.” I have experience and wisdom and patience. The kids make me laugh and make me think. They give me immense pleasure.

Besides, I have always believed in that old African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child!” Now, more than ever.

Kady McMurray, a Rock Hill native, lives in Charleston. She is a former school teacher in Charleston and Berkeley County public schools. She now spends her time painting, writing, traveling, volunteering at Grace church and teaching art at the Lowcountry Senior Center. She has one adult son.