I looked forward to my children learning to speak because I thought I would at last get an insight into what they were thinking, after a good year or so of frustrating sign language and generalised whinging.
The tragedy of course is that even after waiting all that time, you don’t get any insights, you just get sounds that may or may not be words. And even now, seven years on, I’m not sure the spoken word gives me many windows into my childrens’ souls.
All I get is demands, complaints and Sam calling me a dummy and telling me to shut up quite a lot.
But I can now exclusively reveal that it’s when they learn how to type that you get insights.
Just for a laugh I set Sam up on bluetooth-only messaging app so that I could interrupt his precious, hard-won iPad time with messages like GET OFF YOUR IPAD and WHO DO YOU LOVE MORE MUMMY OR DADDY etc.
Except I hadn’t reckoned for Sam to be unable to work out how to use the App. After a practice session last week in which Sam screamed and hit me because he couldn’t work out how to do it we gave up and I backed out of the room slowly holding a chair, legs-out, in front of me.
But then last night I went upstairs quite late, maybe 9.30pm and found Sam hunched under his bedcovers with his iPad, which I thought I had taken away downstairs hours previously.
“Sam! You naughty boy it’s really late!” I shrieked and seized the screen. On it I found the messaging app open and a long, rambling unsent message to me.
I won’t go into the whole thing but two particular phrases completely floored me. “…I will always be your son…” and “…I will be good mummy…”
Along with a whole load of slushy stuff that confirmed that boys really do love their mums, it was the faint air of a simpleton writing to his mother from prison that did for me.
I am not much of a crier, as I always boast, but only because I worry that if I start crying I might not stop – but oh my god, man, I cried. I wasn’t even drunk. There was no build-up, no wobbling lip – tears sprang from my eyes, uncontrollably, as if a water balloon had been pierced, as if they had been hovering there for years (perhaps they had).
And I felt like the mother who lost all her sons in the war, or the mother who had a missing child, or the child who is very ill, or the child who has done something terrible whom she nevertheless loves, or the child who is being bullied mercilessly or the child that has had its heart broken.
Which was odd because Sam was none of those things. He was just standing there in his pyjamas, looking a bit worried, saying “I’m sorry I was on my iPad. I just wanted to send you a message.”