A few weekends ago I was invited to attend Camp Mighty to learn more about the Too Small To Fail campaign. Too Small To Fail’s main focus is to help children in low-income households bridge the language gap. I found out that by the age of four, these children hear thirty million fewer words than their counterparts in high-income homes. This sets children at a tremendous disadvantage, as those with poor language skills are likely to be behind in other areas as well.
Too Small To Fail stresses the importance of reading, singing, talking, and interacting with children as much as possible to help them learn. As I listened to the presentation, I was transported back to the NICU with Maddie. The doctors told us that one big thing we could do was talk to her, as the babies with a strong family presence always did better than those without. We made sure someone was always talking or reading to her. I used to sing her every Christmas carol I know – and I know a LOT of them. One afternoon it was particularly quiet in the unit, and the nurses were able to slow a bit and chat. I inquired about the family of another baby in our corner – I had never seen anyone there with him. The nurse told me that the family lived very far away, and both parents were working double shifts. I felt so terrible for them. Even when I had to go back to work before Madeline’s discharge, we were in a very fortunate situation where someone could always be at her bedside. These children will be overcoming a double-whammy of a rocky start and limited interaction.
In our work with Friends of Maddie, I always keep that family in my mind – the one that is spread too thin, the one that needs a little extra help. I really want to stress this to my children as well. They are very privileged and I want them to appreciate that from an early age. Two huge goals I have for them are to get more involved with charity, including Friends of Maddie. I am going to have Annabel start helping me put together our NICU support packs, and as we assemble them I will explain to her (and James, of course) what the bags are for. I also want to have Annabel choose books to donate to the Children’s Hospital. She can go through her massive collection, and we can also pick out new books to donate.
On that note, I’ve set a personal goal to start contacting publishing houses for book donations to place in our support packs. It would be wonderful if Friends of Maddie can add one more thing to help make a NICU parent’s job just a little bit easier, while also helping benefit the child as well.
I’ve set a few more goals for my family (Annabel is obviously benefitting from strong language skills already but James is just in the starting phases), and you can read more about them over at Go Mighty.