A thousand words

Toby smileDuring the week my daily routine with the children goes something like this. Get woken up by Isaac some time between 5:30 and 6:00am. Send him away with my his iPad/iPhone until the alarm goes off. Go downstairs with Isaac and possibly Toby until Heather comes down with Kara. Get ready and go to work. Come home to spend a little time with the kids before bath, stories and bed.

There’s nothing unique or particularly noteworthy about this routine, other than the fact that it is a routine. I’m very rarely away in the morning before all three kids are up and it’s unusual for me to miss bedtime more than once a week. Even if it’s just a quick chat and a hug in the morning or reading the last story at night, I generally always have some face-time with the kids every day. It’s a small thing but it’s important to me.

The only reason I’m mentioning it here is that this week is one of those rare times when I’ve been torn out of my routine.

I’m fortunate enough to have a job which affords me a lot of flexibility in terms of working hours – although I often catch up with work in the evening and at weekends – and requires me to be away relatively infrequently. In the seven months since Kara was born, I have only been away three times: an overnight trip to Brussels, four nights in the US and now this week, which involves me being away for three nights on a leadership course. I can count the number of other occasions on which I have missed both ends of the day on the fingers of, well, two fingers.

Even when I have been away, I have usually been able to snatch a quick phone call to talk to the boys before they go to bed. Sometimes I think – actually make that know – that I find these brief exchanges more comforting than they do. However, for the first time this evening I was able to use FaceTime – basically, Skype for Apple devices – to make a video call to Heather’s new iPhone and hold a face-to-face conversation with all three kids before they went to bed (although the full extent of the dialogue with Kara was me talking to her and her squawking back at me).

To be able to see the boys’ faces, albeit in jerky lo-res video, and their smiles as they babbled enthusiastically about what they had been up to all afternoon – making chocolate lollies, seeing as you asked – was like raising a standard voice call to the nth degree. I think they rather enjoyed it. I know I did. In a world of emails and text messages and Facebook status updates, there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face conversation, even if it is only via a smartphone. A picture really does speak a thousand words.