Opinion: Matthew Munson – Birthday parties and the ongoing home hunt

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

Birthday parties. There is a huge shift in expectations in recent years. When I was a child, 30 years ago, celebrating your birthday usually involved a trip to McDonalds, Wimpy, or the front room of your house.

I think my parents organised all three for me at various points in my younger years, for which I was eternally grateful, but which I’m afraid are somewhat vague memories now after all the intervening years; if the memory is not related to lunch boxes, PE kits, and brushing teeth, then I’ve had to sacrifice the memory space.

Nowadays, the opportunities for birthday parties are seemingly endless; this weekend, my son went to a pool party at Ramsgate Leisure Centre. I was intrigued, as a child-friendly pool party wasn’t something I’d ever heard of before – but there were inflatables, more submersibles than you can shake a stick at, and enough lifeguards on duty to satisfy even the most hyper-alert of parents; that includes me.

It’s lovely attending parties like that, when the parents are clearly loving and inclusive, the children obviously enjoy each others’ company, and there’s a lot of laughter. Bryan’s birthday is coming up in the next couple of weeks, and it’s given me ideas about a couple of things I can do to make it nicer for him (I hope – as long as his friends confirm they’re definitely coming; a pet peeve of mine when you’re left waiting).

During the party, I realised something; Bryan was safe, there were parents I trusted in close proximity, and he was focused entirely on enjoying himself with his friends. I was temporarily redundant for a little while. I felt giddy with possibilities; it was a Saturday evening and I wasn’t expected for an entire hour. The world was my oyster; I could do anything with that precious time. So I went for a short walk, phoned my mum, popped to Asda, and went back to the leisure centre where I read the paper. Isn’t it funny how your expectations change when you’re a parent? The simple pleasures become all-consuming.

I’m still introducing Bryan to the intricacies of hunting for a new home; we look at Zoopla on a regular basis, and he’s becoming something of an expert as to what we need in a new home. The other night, I was showing him one particular flat, and he leapt up and ran out the room. I was confused; had I said something wrong? Did I upset him? But he returned a few seconds later with a tape measure, wanting to measure out the size of “his” room; fair enough, it filled a couple of minutes. We calculated a space, and a protest went up; he had been promised a double bed, and that bedroom wouldn’t comfortably accommodate it plus all of his other furniture. I’d forgotten about that promise, but he hadn’t, and I had to concede the point. Damn my glib promises.

But looking at homes whilst also taking into account another human being is a big challenge, far more than when you’re looking just for yourself. I need to be aware of both of our needs, and where we’ll be in five years’ time as well as the immediate now. It’s particularly frustrating when estate agents don’t get back to you after you enquire about a property, or get shirty with you when you can’t make their one solitary viewing option at ten past three on Tuesday – despite the fact I work and my son needs picking up from school at the same time; two points I always make sure I mention to the agents in the initial email.

Perhaps I should just be glad they reply; the amount of times I’ve enquired and heard nothing back from the agent until I’ve chased them three times over the course of the week.

I became briefly despondent at the beginning of the week, but am back to my usually quiet determination now – I am determined to find somewhere new for my family, it’s just tracking the place down … and with Bryan in charge of room measurements, how could I possibly go wrong?