Toby isn’t generally the most openly affectionate of children – it’s just not his nature – so those rare occasions when he does spontaneously open up are moments to treasure.
For a variety of reasons, Toby gets less one-to-one time with us than his siblings. Often he ends up doing stuff with Isaac, as brothers who are close in age will do. At other times he prefers to sidle off and do his own thing apart from the rest of us – like me, he’s the one child who’s comfortable in his own company.
So when he piped up one evening last week and quietly mentioned that he would like some more (in his words) “you-and-me time”, it was an unusual enough request for us to sit up and take notice.
I was happy to oblige, promising him some Daddy/Toby time at the weekend, a simple offer which left him positively giddy with delight.
And so on Saturday morning we set off into town – me on foot, him on his bike – for some quality time together. It’s only been a couple of months since Toby cracked bike-riding, so getting beyond the end of our road on two wheels is still a major source of excitement for him.
So too is the opportunity to have a quiet babyccino in Costa without having to fight for airtime and the last mini muffin in the packet with Isaac and Kara. We settled in at his favourite table – tucked away in a corner, comfy armchairs, very Toby – and had a little natter while I gave him some basic lessons with the new camera we bought him for his birthday last week.
And that was the third leg of the triple whammy. Toby has always had an interest in photos and had been asking for his own camera for a while, and this was his first opportunity to get some shots outside of our house.
Cycling, coffee and taking photos. It doesn’t sound like much but Toby is a boy of simple tastes. As we were heading home, I asked him if he had had a good time. He gave me a huge beaming smile and said, “It was amazing. We don’t do this very often. Can we do it again?”
Yes, Toby. Yes we can.
For me, though, the best part of our morning had already come before that. As we were moseying around town Toby, who is normally to physical displays of affection what Trappist monks are to karaoke, spontaneously slipped his hand into mine and we walked along holding hands.
Toby is often a boy of few words. On this occasion he didn’t need to say anything. That little gesture told me everything I needed to know.