By Frances McGowin

Since I never had children of my own, which was likely a good thing considering what a problem child I was, I have adopted my grand nieces and nephews to fill that grandchildren position. They were one of the deciding factors that landed me in Fairhope. I have four grandchildren in Mobile and three grandchildren in Pensacola whose parents are more than willing to share with me anytime. 

I am not a disciplinarian by any stretch of the imagination, a characteristic that often has opposition. I actually love that the children are so playful, creative, and energetic, and I want them to have freedom to explore without limits. This has proved to be a theory that is not shared by everyone.

Until I am given more specific instructions, I will continue to allow the exploration and the activities that nurture their imaginative play. I will also continue to be in awe of their energy, creativity, and brilliance! 

Like taking the children for lunch at a golf club and allowing the them to play outside the window while waiting for our food to arrive. I watch them make a game of rolling down the hills. My only indication that their landing was a putting green at the base of the hills was the total exodus of practicing golfers. I think the golfers did not appreciate the creativity of the children’s game… or maybe they were all just frustrated with their own putting skills. Hard to tell.

…or like taking the children to play in the game room next to my pickleball courts. The first 10 minutes were great, but as soon as I stepped onto the courts for my first game, they ran out onto the courts asking, “Frannie, can we go play upstairs on the skywalk?” “Sure.” Within a very few minutes the pickleball games were halted by the overhead running and harmonic shouting. When I looked up, I saw elderly people on the track had pinned themselves against the walls in awe. It was a joyous celebration of youth, but not everyone saw it that way. Maybe I misread the reaction, but I brought the children back down to the game room just in case.

Already I am witnessing the development of valuable negotiation skills like before Christmas when I gave them a choice of cash, gift cards, or a present. They opened negotiations with “How much cash?”  “$25.00 each, how does that sound?” They pondered a bit before replying “$50.00 sounds a lot better.” I applaud their enterprise. This skill will serve them well when they enter the world of business. 

At such young ages, these precious angels have become “foodies” and able to detect any variations in their food’s ingredients. For instance, I made homemade mac and cheese with cream sauce and sharp-aged white cheddar. Immediately they detected a variation in ingredients. “Frannie, mac and cheese is supposed to be orange. We can’t eat this. It’s not orange!” Their pallets are so acute that they can taste color! They are definitely gifted. I stocked up on kraft instant mac and cheese (the powdered cheese kind). Their tastes are steeped in nostalgia.

The children and I often explore new restaurants in Fairhope. However, more than once, the exploration of restaurants has been unsuccessful due to the restaurant’s higher standards for quality cuisine and restrictive ambiance. I am still learning the restaurants that will accommodate our lower standards in food fare and tolerate the creative activity of inspired children.

When the kids are in my home, it is a whirlwind of entertainment. My antique oversized coffee table in the living room serves as a stage for singing, dancing, and gymnastics. My new hardwood floors are the tracks for tricycles and plastic cars. Countertops are covered with tea sets, mini cars, and talking animals. There is never a dull moment.

Although I think my grand nieces and nephews are the most talented, smartest, and most fun children I know, I am always glad to restore peace and quiet, routine and order, back into my home when I return them to their parents. I preface the exchange with “they have not had a bath, brushed their teeth, or had anything to eat without sugar or cheese in it since they have been here. Oh, and they have cotton candy in their suitcases, and I paid them $5.00 each to play the “silent game” on the way home. We had a great time.” 

Having the coolest parents ever, their reply is always “it was so worth it!” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I am pretty sure it is “thank you.”

Noteworthy advice for grandparents and grand aunts: 

  1. Give yourself permission to be a kid again and play without reservation, but within your physical limitations and medical restrictions. 
  2. Do not offer to help the children with their homework. You won’t understand it.
  3. It’s ok to ask them to help with your electronics, but don’t give them your passwords.
  4. Enjoy every moment with them while they still think you are fun and want to spend time with you! 
Mar 22, 2023
Events That Inspire

Join Our Community

Sign up below to subscribe to our weekly newsletter

* indicates required

More from 

Events That Inspire


View All