At present, between John and me, our niece and nephew count stands at twenty three. Yes, you read correctly. Ten nephews, all on my side, and thirteen nieces, nine of mine and four of John's. We don't get to spend a lot of time with them unfortunately, as the nearest ones to us live about sixty miles away. The teenage and twenty somethings we are now getting to know as young adults, which is fun as we get to be the cool Auntie and Uncle. I fully intend getting some of them to visit us in Clare for weekends this Summer so that we can get them an introduction to surfing.
The younger ones are a bit more tricky to get to know. As their Mums and Dads lead busy lives, juggling work commitments with the full on demands of raising little ones, we don't get to see them as often as we should. I remember as a kid having more associations with Aunts and Uncles who were parents to cousins my age, and I can see this happening with my nieces and nephews. They get to spend time in their cousins houses, having sleepovers and what are now termed "staycations" (ie the annual holiday where you get farmed out to Auntie Mary up the country, who in turn sends a couple of her brood down to your house for a week). So when you're a childless Auntie and Uncle like us, little ones aren't particularly interested in extended stays in houses where there are no other kids to play with, hence they don't get to know you as well as their other Aunties and Uncles.
A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my sister in law, who is Mammy to my youngest niece and nephew. Aoife, who at three going on four is the most adorable little munchkin girlie on the planet (and I'm not being biased, she really is!) and Darragh, her bouncing baby brother, five months old. She told me that she never remembered being in my house, which made me feel quite ashamed that it had been so long since they had visited us that she didn't remember being there. So I invited her and her Mammy and baby brother down to visit the following week, and promised her a teddy bears' picnic. I figured that if she was going to come for a visit, I was going to have to give her something to make the day memorable in her three-going-on-four year old mind.
So the following week I unearthed an ecosystem of teddy bears (don't ask why there are so many in this house, I am a sad individual and I will admit to the fact) from under the bed, and set about putting a welcoming committee in place for Aoife and Darragh. Aoife, as guest of honour, brought a few of her own critters, and soon they were all picnicing happily together on my sunroom floor (the weather has gone to poo here again, so outdoor picnics were out of the question). When lunch was over, we selected a few furry candidates to accompany us to a local lakeside spot which has a little playground. After Aoife and the furries had a few goes on the slide and swings, we hung out by the lake and fed the ducks.
Such a fun day for me and I hope for Aoife too. And now that she remembers visiting Auntie Jane's house, I'm hoping she'll want to return again before too long. Here's a photo of Aoife, Darragh and me surrounded by the other delegates to the conference.
Scotland, Part Two
4 hours ago