Opinion with Matthew Munson: Tackling online safety and a mammoth Lego instruction book

Bryan online and with his gift from Tesco

I’m what is roughly considered to be middle-aged; 39. I remember my grandmother telling me when I was a child that she always “felt” like she was 12 inside her head. I never understood what that meant until recently; there are certain expectations of what a middle-aged person should be like. I should be getting excited about cardigans and financial planning and the news.

But I like to confound expectations, and I am not alone. I have never got excited over a cardigan in my life, financial planning in terms of pensions still makes me nervous, and I’ve not watched the news in years. Let’s be honest, I could probably guess with a great degree of certainty what the news is going to feature right now.

Being a father certainly keeps me young; I have to find a balance between the 12-year-old stuck in my own head and being a responsible adult. When I’ve figured that out, I’ll let you know. The advances during my nearly forty years on the planet have taught me a lot, and I’ve had to work hard to keep up; there’s no excuse that “I don’t understand.” I have a son who’s tech savvy in a way I could never hope to have been when I was younger; he uses his tablet with ease, and I’m working hard with him to understand how to be safe online.

Different people have different rules; I can understand that – respect it, even. But there are certain things I won’t tolerate; online bullying, for instance, bad language with children present, and computer games that are clearly too old for a primary school student. But Bryan’s got a good head on his shoulders – I’m fortunate like that – and I know that we can talk about things like that should it ever happen.

I want to start early with conversations about being safe online; the internet was in its infancy when I was a teen, and we didn’t have access to the plethora of options kids see as normal now. By treating it as part of the normal, day-to-day chatter, Bryan is becoming comfortable with understanding what it means to be safe.

Personally, I prefer Lego or other off-line toys; there’s more control over that. Bryan’s not much of a toy player; figures and cars don’t interest him, whereas I loved my Star Trek figures and my Millennium Falcon, and could be lost for hours in an entire story I was creating in my head.

But Lego – my word, how much it has evolved. Bryan has got a Harry Potter set to build, of Hedwig the owl. It was his choice (bought with a voucher from Tesco, who were rewarding him for his kindness of spirit a few weeks ago by donating money to a food bank – an unexpected treat for him, but already generating huge amounts of excitement at Casa de Munson), and we unpacked it on Saturday night ready for the morning. There were four sealed plastic bags of pieces and a 144-page instruction manual. I think the entire procedures manual for my last-but-one full-time job didn’t get anywhere near that many pages. Bryan and I just stared at the book in amazement before deciding that was a “tomorrow job”.

Bryan did some more Lego recently and asked me to help on a particularly tricky bit. I was delighted to be asked, so of course I said “yes”. Now, one thing I am constantly telling Bryan is “attention to detail” when it comes to Lego; “Be patient and slow down.”

It goes without saying, of course, that I made a mistake that required dismantling a small section and starting again. I was not necessarily the calmest I’ve ever been. I was chastised by my nine-year-old son for not being “focused enough on the detail” and for not being calm enough. I had very little to say back to that, as he was right.

I’ll win the next battle.