Adults – civilised adults – talk to you. Children talk at you. My children talk at me all the time. They’ll relay the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows through the crack in the bathroom door. They’ll list their favourite footballers from their Match Attax cards. They’ll embark on a joke that has no known ending while I’m perfecting a tweet and they’ll test their recollection of the first names of all the teachers in their school when Gardeners’ Question Time is starting.
This ceaseless, guileless prattle can be endearing. It can be exasperating and, occasionally, it can cause me to flee to the nettle bed behind the garage.
But yesterday, in hospital, a mask was placed over my daughter’s face, her eyes rolled back and she was silenced. Her silence muffled even the screams of a child in the next treatment room while we paced the corridor outside.
When, eventually, we were summoned, her eyes were open but she was still silent. I would have endured the highlights from five packs of Match Attax for a syllable.
Today, the head in the bed has been in full flow again. She has compared the attributes of Emma Watson and Bonnie Wright, planned her marriage to Frank Lampard, recounted her latest dreams and verbalised a selection of new hair dos.
But today I have absorbed it raptly because I have listened to childish silence and it terrified me.