I'm not with Nik and Tom tonight. Instead I am sitting in a pleasantly contemporary hotel room in the centre of Truro, Cornwall ahead of a fun-filled meeting tomorrow. That's worth an ironic-sounding 'yippee-kye-aye' by anybody's reckoning.
Separations like this happen a little too often but are the unavoidable trade-off against the flexibility of working from home. I get far more 'home' days than 'away' days so I shouldn't complain...
So I sit here and ponder on the weekend that has just gone - a weekend that has seen Tom thrive, amuse and inspire us in a way that has made the weekend seem special but, in reality, happens day after day. A few sweet excerpts from this weekend go a long way towards illustrating how far we've come and just how much promise the future holds.
When we're home for the weekend Saturday morning is swimming morning for Tom and me. No longer the hour-long screaming fits in the changing rooms when Tom would refuse to allow me to put an implant on long enough to tell him it would be OK and we were on our way to the shower and yes, he could have raisins soon. Now we splash and giggle and gesture our way through. How Tom might actually learn to swim is a concept I occasionally toy with but tend to leave for the world of 'in its own good time'.
This Saturday, for no discernable reason I could fathom, Tom decided the shallow paddling area with the hand-pumped fish fountains was a perfect place for Daddy and Tom to dine. Intent on his mission and oblivious to the noisy children surrounding us Tom criss-crossed the paddling area fetching imaginary crockery from fantasy cupboards and served me up a delightful banquet of made-up jelly and pretend cereal. We tucked in lustily (occasionally feeding each other tasty morsels) and, while there were occasional friendly disputes over whose invisible plate was whose, it all ended happily. The chores were left undone and we played imaginary drums and pianos, splashing merrily to ourselves. I have no idea what tune Tom heard while he played but I'm sure it was beautiful and note perfect.
We don't sign. The few that were picked up during the short period before Tom's first implant have long since been forgotten. When his processors are off Tom whispers and I either lean in closer, a gesture which Tom takes to mean 'say it again' or I nod enthusiastically and keep on drumming. Simple communication but, for now, it works.
The annual Ear Foundation barbeque/garden party - an opportunity for an increasingly aware Tom to see lots of other children wearing 'ears' just like his. Only he didn't pay a blind bit of notice , focusing instead on the bouncy castle and hiding under the cake stall table ramming more and more flapjack into his mouth. It makes a father proud.
Nik and I were supposed to be selling strawberries and cream. I was rubbish and kept getting sidetracked into conversation with other parents; parents with similar stories who had that all-important entry level understanding of what this cochlear implant malarkey was all about. Our neighbours popped along too - supportive darlings that they are - and Mark said he couldn't walk more than a couple of yards through the garden without overhearing another conversation that included the abbreviation 'PCT', often preceeded by less-than-polite adjectives.
Once Nik and I had resolved the 'labour discrepancy' issue (I was sorry) I shared all the discussions I'd been party to. There must be few occasions where you can have an objective discussion about who has it worse; those families were children are born deaf or those who have children who lose it to meningitis, without feeling remotely defensive. If you're interested, we didn't resolve that one although the post-meningitic families didn't have quite as many concerns about the surgery - what's a few hours on an operating table compared to a coma?
You know your child is growing up when you find yourself able to get to the end of an afternoon with another family and realise you've had chance to actually talk. Tom and his new friend Lloyd needed just the odd poke in the right fun direction and they were happy. The sun shone (for what must be the first time this summer), the (very occasional) beer flowed and Tom was a normal, happy, car obsessed boy chit-chatting away with another car obsessed boy about the games to play next and the best way to get the pushalong car and tricycle wedged between shed and wall.
This was my first experience of seeing Tom with a new friend. By new I mean 'Child who's not Joe next door' - their relationship has morphed into the toddler equivalent of a forty year marriage. They greet each other enthusiastically, talk about each other when they're not there but, as soon as they're together they either bicker or slump companionably in front of the TV. With Lloyd, a seemingly critical few months older, and a little careful parental steerage it was all turn taking, sharing and laughing like drains while expending megaWatts of ice cream- derived kid energy.
Tom so rocks. I must download a picture from the weekend for your delectation. You'll melt at his cuteness.