FROM HARDSHIP TO JOY: WHEN CHAT CHANGES EVERYTHING

I spent the day with one of my best friends at his new house in Cheshire on Saturday. We first met at high school and have since been through pretty much every high and low in life together. When we get together we can – and we do – talk for hours and hours.

It’s funny seeing someone you knew as a child raising kids of their own. I was watching him interacting with his two children at the weekend and thinking about what a great dad he makes. Both of his young boys lit up when he played with them – it was a real joy to watch.

It wasn’t until I left that I realised that his eldest was only slightly older than my son was when his mum died, which was just two years old. The utter shock and delirium of that period is almost impossible to recall now, but, looking at my friend’s son nod off in the back of the car, I was able to remember how difficult it was to communicate the gravity of the situation with a child who could barely talk.

Unkeen to linger on the harsh memories for too long, I got to thinking about how my son and I communicate now. Anyone who has raised a toddler will remember how utterly pointless and unsatisfying it is trying to speak to their child over the phone when they are apart. A young child is quite unable to fathom the notion of either holding a phone to their ear or speaking directly into the mouthpiece. This is possibly because their early experiences of telecommunication are through play and make-believe, where the person at the other end neither matters nor exists. This made time apart from my son difficult for me until fairly recently; he would either get upset or seem indifferent when I called whenever I had to go away.

This changed significantly recently, though. Jackson has spent quite a lot of time with his grandparents over the school holidays this summer. He has been voice and video-calling several times a day and sending me messages from various adults’ phones. We’ve had dinner over FaceTime and he has even called for a chat while I’ve been at work, saying ‘hello’ to some of my colleagues while he was on the screen.

‘Wahgwan?’ he’ll begin, whatever the format of the conversation (much to the annoyance of his Jamaican grandparents). And then we’ll talk for ages about what we’ve both been doing all day. We’re now just like really good friends, talking about the ups and downs of life freely as we go.

A sample of one of our lighter text-based chats

Raising an infant as a sole parent can be a lonely business. Raising a child who is able to hold a conversation, crack a joke, articulate their feelings and empathise with yours, however, is quite the opposite. We’re much more like a team now. We’re can do anything together. What was once a hardship is now an absolute joy. Even if he does call me ‘bruv’ or ‘fam’ when I’m actually his dad.