Staying in touch with parents once you've left the family home - in my case this took place over a decade ago - can sometimes be difficult, or hard to coordinate, especially if they're also both retired and have a more active social life than you can afford living in London. So in the technological age various methods come to hand to ensure it doesn't feel like you've been out of their lives, and out of touch, for too long.
With my mum and sister we have a WhatsApp group where unimportant and often nonsensical information bats backwards and forwards at such a rate that on more than one occasion - when I've been otherwise engaged - I have come back to over thirty unread messages, and angry recriminations, that I haven't shown support or given an opinion on whatever the subject of the day is - it's exhausting, yet brilliant and I wouldn't have it any other way.
However, with fathers - for me anyway - it's another kettle of fish. My dad doesn't have a phone that has WhatsApp, he likes receiving text messages but never responds so you're never 100% sure whether he's read them or not (that is until I ask my mum over the phone or the aforementioned WhatsApp) and finally he's not great at talking on the actual old school landline phone.
So whilst I was away in Argentina for a few months towards the end of last year I was thrilled to learn that he had finally opened an email account - free don't you know? - and decided that our next attempted mode of communication would be as digital pen pals.
BEST DECISION EVER.
Gone were the awkward pauses, communications through the mothership, or long periods of no communication. Instead we had something that was 'ours' and a way of feeling closer and more involved in each others lives. I told him about life in Argentina and what we were getting up to, and he regaled me with information about his hectic social life --from coffee mornings with his old work colleagues to Wetherspoons drinks with his football chums not to mention that he'd become a 'reading friend' at the local primary school.
Very quickly Dad-Mail became one of the highlights of my week. And according to reports from my mum they were for him also. It became a weekly ritual that he would read my correspondence alone and then out loud to my mother --it should be noted I did the same with my partner whose own musings were often interrupted by me yelling DAD-MAIL! Sad but alas also true.
Returning to the UK before Christmas I thought Dad-Mail would stop. I guess being in the same country gives you a sense you could just see someone in person or pick up the phone... However, it didn't and still hasn't and I am pleased to say that my weekly reports continue.
I should probably confess that growing up I was a massive daddy's girl. We went on shopping trips to Meadow Hall and my first spectacles were the same style as my father's (the optician pointed out they were boys glasses but I was nine years old and didn't care). That was until adolescence hit and then we had nothing in common anymore. Now about to enter my third decade in the world it's a lovely feeling to reconnect more regularly and have something that we both get happiness, and light relief from, especially at a time when the world seems to be imploding.
Yes some might think it's impersonal and I should jump on a train back north more regularly, but for me Dad-Mail is a brilliant thing.