When I learned about The Word Gap this last fall when I first met with Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation about their Too Small to Fail campaign, I really to think started to think about what I could do to help close it. Long term, Harry and I want to find a local group that really needs individuals to come in and read and/or interact with kids and babies. But as we’re really working to find a place to give in our area, I thought I’d practice giving even close to home

With these crazies.

I have seven nieces. Seven girls. Ages 14, 10, 7, 4, 3, 2, and almost 1. These people are unique individuals and all but two live within 30 minutes of my house. Still, I don’t get to see them enough. And when I do see them, it’s cray cray Lunacyville. Almost always I see them all at the same time. Exactly never have I spent dedicated one-on-one time with each of them.

And that’s how you get to really connect, yes? One on one, with more talking and less eight people squealing and jumping and screaming at once?

I think so.

So I thought, I’m going to make dedicated time each week (give or take) and take each of my nieces out on a one-on-one date every quarter. 

We’ll see how this goes. 

So far it’s gone really well.

Right now I’m in the midst of taking each of my nieces out for Christmas tea. Because that seemed like a good first date.

Tea = pickles.

And French Fries.

And ice cream.

We use the term “tea” pretty loosely around here.

Since it’s Christmas, I also let them pick out a little gift for each of their sisters. ‘Tis the season after all. And how fun is it to give gifts? Even if those gifts are usually bizarre and always cost less than $5. The fun part is picking something out all by yourself, yes?

But the main fun part has been the tea. Or the lemonade and cherries.

Lemonade and cherries consumed from a tea cup with a straw. Like all the fancy ladies do.

And while scheduling these has been an effort, it’s been a worthwhile one. When I first thought of doing this, I thought I wouldn’t actually have time to do it…but the thing is, I do. have time I have time for what I make time for. Each of these little gatherings has been two hours at the maximum (I’ve spent twice that amount of time trying to fix a printer). And it’s been well worth each minute. So much fun.

And really, the activity hasn’t mattered at all. It’s mostly been fun just to connect. To sit with the two-year-old and ask her questions about her life. Deep questions like, what’s  your favorite color (pink), what’s your favorite animal (mermaid), what’s your favorite song (nonsensical song she makes up on the spot). And it’s fun to see how the three-year-old’s answers, differ from the four-year-old’s, differ from the 10-year-old’s. And how much I learn…in such as short period of time…about their current lives and particular journeys.

It’s also amazing to connect with them, eyes locked, as they practice talking to grown ups, practice thinking through conversation, and often throw in things like “that word stars with B! Buh. Buh. Buh. Like Bubble Gum!!!!)

Their brains are amazing.

And they are so lucky (so many of us are all so lucky) to grow up with conversation. With connection. Whether it be with loved ones and care givers, or with Sesame Street (which was my favorite learning tool when I was a kid), I keep being reminded through readings and studies  and individuals how important one-on-one connection is…for all of us…but for sure for the smallest of us.

Of course it’s also fun to drink fancy “tea” from a straw.

And as potentially beneficial and fun as this intentional time together has been for them, it’s been really important to me.

While sometimes it’s hard to make the time, making some moments count with each of these little people helped me focus on what’s really important…time with family.

And that’s the best gift I can give myself (and them) this Holiday Season.

This post was sponsored by Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation as part of the Too Small to Fail campaign. Several bloggers, including myself, have added goals on Go Mighty around spending more time with the kids in our lives. You can check them out here and join in by tagging #gomighty4kids on your kid-related goals.