Opinion: Matthew Munson – Birthdays and Mother’s Day

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

You might notice the absence of something rather large in this week’s column. What could I possibly add to the conversation right now? Not much, I suspect, so I shan’t even try.

I have changed my hours around with various commitments recently, and I’m rather looking forward to spending extra time with Bryan over the next few weeks – as well as introducing him to some more things. Road safety, for example; as we pop to shops, the roads will inevitably be clearer and so I feel confident in giving him a bit of education in working out how and where to cross roads. I always cling to his hand when we cross roads, and I want to make sure – as he eventually pulls away from that safety net – that he has another one (his skills of observation) to fall back down. Every cloud …

It was his birthday very recently, and he was over the moon; excited didn’t seem to cover it. It was almost the sole topic of conversation the day before – Birthday Eve – and his birthday itself was full of love … and, he would want me to tell you, presents. An attempt to wangle an extra hour before bed fell onto deaf ears, and I didn’t feel in the slightest bit guilty in turning down that request; I’m relaxed on so many things, but bedtimes I am very strict on. He doesn’t stop trying though.

An interesting by-product of my first year’s parenting is how quickly we fell into a rhythm, and how everything before entirely gets forgotten. Someone who didn’t know our past recently commented that Bryan looked a lot like me. In truth, we do share facial similarities, but that’s obviously more good fortune than good genes.

Both of us forget, from time to time, that he is adopted; not in any deliberate way, but because he and I have just gelled; we’ve become a family, and the A-Word is never mentioned any more. Not because we’re embarrassed by it – absolutely the opposite, in fact – but because it’s the story of our life and is no different to the rest of the population who become a family by other means. I actually asked Bryan about it this weekend, and he just shrugged when I asked how much he was interested in keeping that part of his life story “alive”.

“I don’t need to, Dad,” he said. “It’s not like I’m going anywhere. I just want to be like everyone else.”

Ah, the lament of every child everywhere at some point. I will be encouraging him to stand out as much as he can, but on this front, how can I argue the point? So I made him a promise; that his past is indeed important and to be cherished, but not something that needs to be referred to every five minutes.

I’m also conscious of Mother’s Day for him every year; I’m a single parent, although I would never dream of saying that I was both mum and dad, because that just doesn’t make sense to me. I try – try – to strike a balance between all what a parent should be, but I don’t see that as anything distinctly paternal or maternal, merely parental.

I’m continuously amazed by the resilience of kids, as Bryan was not in any way phased by this; a teacher at his ever-wonderful school (who are staying open during these current troubled times, by the way, and supporting key worker families by supporting their children to learn and have fun) suggested that he do a card for me or for his nan instead.

So we did a card for his nan together, to make sure she knew how important she is in his life … and, I’d better catch myself, in my life too. That could have been very awkward if I had forgotten to say that.

Happy mother’s day, Mum – you’re pretty awesome.

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