Opinion: Matthew Munson – “Dad, why does the name Cyril exist?”


Questions. It’s said that a child asks around 280 questions every day, although I wonder how researchers have actually found that out. A lot of these statistics are meaningless, so feel free to ignore that number if you wish.

What I can say is this; children ask a lot of questions. Bryan does, and being a single parent, all the questions are aimed at me. I kept a mental note of a few of them from just this week,

“Dad, why are blackbirds black?”

“Dad, do seagulls have friends?”

“Dad, why does the name Cyril exist?”

“Dad, why is Ricky Martin gay?”

“Dad, who is God based on?”

“Dad, how many yoghurts would make me sick?”

“Dad, who would win in a fight: the Hulk or the Spanish?”

“Dad, can I go to the toilet?” (“Bryan, just because you’re home learning doesn’t make you have to take it that seriously; this is home, don’t forget.”)

“Dad, why do I like mushrooms?”

“Dad, are you alive?”

It’s certainly a challenge to come up with answers, but I always try – mostly because I want him to continue asking questions. It’s important children know that it’s okay to learn about the world around them, and that it’s okay to learn by asking – although there are occasional moments when (I confess) I pretend not to hear him the first time in order to give me a few seconds to think about an answer.

We spent many hours discussing religion, for example, and I’m always very careful not to impose my own views on him. To a degree, I suppose that’s inevitable – he knows my views, he asks me about them, and whilst I try to be scrupulously fair, I probably do influence him despite my best efforts.

But one thing I like is that he continuously asks questions – not because he’s trying to catch me out, but because a situation has come up that he needs to try and fit into his own world view. I always point out of him that, if that incident or thought changes his mind, then he should embrace it, no matter how weird or scary that might feel. When I told him that was the mark of a good scientist, he rather liked that.

Scientist is always one of those jobs that children like the sound of, because – I suppose – of the potential to do experiments with different-coloured liquids that might explode if they’re lucky. Bryan’s certainly taken with that attitude, although he always wants to be a teacher, a dancer, a shopkeeper, and a carer – the situation changes depending on where we’ve been on one particular day.

To be fair to him, I was the same – I remember as a kid wanting to be everything from a chef and a doctor through to a journalist and an actor. Some were five-minute wonders, whilst others held sway for a little bit longer until I discovered other things that fascinated me instead. I still don’t entirely know what I want to do with my career at 38 – but maybe I’ll figure it out one day.

It’s funny that I remember those things from my childhood; there are moments I can recall with absolute clarity, and most I don’t in the slightest. I wish I could remember more, but I suppose the brain can only hold so much active information.

I find myself wondering from time to time what Bryan will remember about these years when he’s older; not necessarily this current situation, but more generally. Will he remember me getting grumpy over something, or moments when I had to “have a word” (to put it euphemistically), or will he remember different moments – experiences we had or being at home and doing craft activities, for example.

As long as he remembers that he’s loved, the rest we’ll figure out later.