Editor’s note: This column also appears in the April edition of Park Cities People.
I’ve just gotten another cortisone shot in my bad shoulder and cranked up the heating pad for my lower back. Which is to say I had the joy of having all four of my princesses, ages 2 to 5, around me for five days. The hoped-for Dallas sunshine for the wee ones from the frozen tundra of Kentucky did not appear. We played indoors a lot at Lolly’s (my) house.
Nothing has been more joyful or a greater yardstick of aging. My granddaughters are suddenly all in big-girl panties, except for when they’re not, and my ability to sling kids into car seats has diminished in the 35-plus years since I could do it while deftly juggling groceries. But the cold snap made for a lot of indoor time: Candyland, stickers and paints, dress-up, and hide and seek, with the attendant vigilance that sibling and cousin rivalry entails.
The biggest challenges, however, continued to be food preferences. It was déjà vu. More than 30 years ago, I wrote a column in this publication about “Picky Eater Syndrome.” I had one son who preferred Tang to orange juice, margarine to butter, instant oatmeal to the real thing. And he never ever wanted his food groups to touch on his plate.
I wailed to my pediatrician that every other preschooler ate strawberries and spaghetti, but my kid subsisted on peanut butter and Cheerios. “He’s healthy. Give him a vitamin, and offer him food, but don’t make a big deal out of it. I promise you, he’ll grow up to eat everything.” Wise man. He was right, although that didn’t stop me from frantically trying to introduce other food.
My father, a World War II Navy veteran, intoned upon the rare sleepover that there was “the right way, the wrong way, and the Navy way, and in my house, the Navy Way is it. If a kid doesn’t eat what we put out, he can just go to bed hungry.” Which is what my little stubborn son did. He sucked toothpaste for two days while his parents took a weekend break, and he was oh-so-glad to see me return. (This is the same father who once forced me as a preschooler to eat breakfast until I threw up on him.)
So, as requested, I put butter all over every inch of the mandatory raisin-bread toast (not just a pat in the middle) and threw out several pieces until I got just the right firmness. I mixed up the same instant oatmeal I had from my own mothering years, careful not to get it too mushy or too firm, and ensuring each girl sprinkled her own cinnamon on it. I cared about fruit and veggies only insofar as it pertained to tummy aches. The main thing was to keep them from missing mommies and to make it easy on me.
But cabin fever ensued, so we had to find some tot-friendly restaurants. There’s the always kid-pleasing Chick-fil-A by SMU, but — as I discovered the hard way — it’s closed on Sundays. There’s Mi Cocina in the Village, where tortillas and cheese are a crowd pleaser, but that’s the problem. It can have crowds and a wait time too long for Granny.
Chipotle in Preston Center is a sure-fire pleaser, if you can find a decent parking place. Penne Pomodoro in Snider Plaza is a hit since they bring out raw dough, which can be smushed and cooked while waiting on the pasta. You just have to time it for parking and getting the all-important booth. I refuse to do McDonald’s because, frankly, I did it 100 times too many in a former life.
Once, we ended up with pizza being delivered to our dollies’ “tea party.” Another morning, we had leftover cupcakes for breakfast. Shhhhhh.
The ultimate joy as a grandmother is to truly not care about a grandchild’s achievements. I don’t know any competitive grandparents reciting a litany of little victories. It is all about how blessed we are to just simply watch little children become who they are. Whether it’s twirling like a ballerina, building Lego towers, or belting out tunes from Frozen, it’s just all amazing. And so worth the cortisone shot.