Opinion: Matthew Munson – The joy of hearing your child’s laughter

Life of Bryan and Matthew

Being a parent is the most fascinating, exhausting, and wonderful role I’ve ever had. I have been a published writer, able to witness the mad scribblings from my brain put down on paper; I have worked with vulnerable groups to make life more interesting and fun; I have walked marathons. But being a dad is something on a different plane of existence.

This time we have together is precious, one we will never have again. It’s hard to describe the love you feel as a parent, and of course, you show that love in so many ways; giving them experiences, laughter, structure, routine … all of it.

We’ve had a lot of emotional highs and lows over the past few weeks, but that’s entirely understandable. The world is a confusing place right now, and uncertainty causes us to react to it, and the emotions of a nine-year-old boy are big and intense. I’m not perfect either – it has been known for me to get grumpy – so he has to try and work out what I really mean, not what I grumbled in the moment before stomping off to calm down.

But giving solid boundaries absolutely works, although kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for. There have been occasions where I’ve either said no to something, or suggested that Bryan might want to do something in a different way as it’s easier – or because I can’t quite work out if I agree with it or not. If it happens again six weeks later, and I give even the slightest hint of a different answer, Bryan’s all over it; not only can he remember the first answer I gave, he can remember how long ago it was I said it, where we were, and the entire context of the conversation. It’s just a pity he can’t remember that I asked him to BRUSH HIS TEETH FIVE MINUTES AGO!! It’s a sore subject.

The best bit of being a parent – no, one of the best bits – is hearing my son laugh. I love it, especially the uncontrollable laugh of someone truly enjoying themselves. Saturday nights are film nights for us now (and it’s my favourite evening of the week), and last night we watched a Marvel superhero film. It was entertaining, it was funny, and there was plenty of action to keep us both entertained. A couple of brief moments made Bryan roar with laughter – proper roar – and I wish I’d had the presence of mind to record him. It was brilliant, and it made my heart so light to hear the pure enjoyment he was feeling.

It’s funny; I remember a couple of people asking me, long ago when I was first exploring the possibility of adopting, if I was worried about being able to love my child as much as I would one who was biologically mine. I dismissed the concerns, I have to admit, as I didn’t even see the difference, and I am even more certain now; I wish before words that my son had been with me since birth, but that sadly wasn’t to be. I didn’t have the pleasure of those early years, but I have the pleasure of now as well as the future, and that is more than I could possibly hope for – and I can assure anyone who would ever worry, that the love you feel for your child doesn’t change whether they are born to you or not. When you hear your child laugh, you know your true feelings. Even if you want to scream when they take 45 minutes to get washed and dressed in the mornings.