05/21/2014 02:27 pm ET Updated Jul 21, 2014

How a 'Step-Grandmother' Became a Grandmother

Matt Carr via Getty Images

I was the granddaughter of a "step-grandmother." One of my grandmothers passed away before I was born. I loved my step-grandmother as much as my biological grandmother. They were women who loved me unconditionally. Titles meant nothing to me. Their actions meant the world.

I am now a step-grandmother to 10 grandchildren. When I remarried after losing my husband, the package included my new-found family. I felt set apart. Twenty-three years later, I am their grandmother. I am my daughter-in-law's second mom, and my natural grandchildren feel no jealousy.

Here is my story.

I had to call my step-grandmother Aunt Clara instead of grandma because my grandfather insisted that all 14 grandchildren respect the memory of our deceased grandmother; the grandmother we never knew.

For over 40 years I did just that. But, in my heart of hearts, I wanted to call her grandma. She was a granddaughter's gift.

One day I whispered in her ear, "I wish I could call you grandma." I wanted her to know how much this little girl loved her. She smiled, pulled me to her and told me she loved me. Little did I know that one day I would bear the title: Step-Grandmother. But not for long!

Today I am, like many of you, an "Aunt Clara"! A large group of us have step-grandchildren who have a deceased grandmother, no grandmother or a few biological living grandmothers. We are the outsiders who yearn to be insiders. Right? You will not be thought of as a "step" grandma if you think of your blended grandchildren's feelings before your own. Don't be a narcissist. That is the key to a "step" grandmother's success.

Please don't feel helpless in your role. Celebrate it. Think Grand! Act Grand! Be Grand! Understand that there is a lot of love to go around. Find your niche with each grandchild. They have different personalities and needs and one ingredient in common... they want to be loved and recognized as special. Make them special. In return, they will make you special.

This is my recipe. I hug and kiss my grandchildren no matter their age. I take them to Johnny Rockets for hamburgers and fries; to Ghirardelli's Chocolate Company and Dairy Queen for ice cream. We have day trips to a museum, a play or a movie. It's always a treat to have pizza afterwards at Lou Mainatis or Giordanos Pizza in Chicago, and sit at a round table and discuss the event. I like to hike and bike. like to go for walks and talks. I even email and text with my grandchildren. We bond as a family laughing and learning and exploring.

I have told my blended grandchildren about my family history and the "Aunt Clara" story. I never discuss my grandchildren's parents or another grandmother. I want my grandchildren to think of me as their guardian angel. I am available to them at a moment's notice. I am not confrontational, nor am I a disciplinarian. I learned "to get it".

You have your special ingredients; turn them into loving recipe.

Do Something GOOD Today: Show your grandchildren your unconditional love