Opinion with Matthew Munson: Getting ready for the end of term and Christmas

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

We are fast-approaching a well-known time of year, popular with many and the cause of apprehension in others. The end of term is nearly upon us; children are undoubtedly excited about the rest, and us parents are glad to have time with our children and wondering how we can entertain them in these uncertain times.

I mentioned the first lockdown just the other day, and Bryan just shrugged; it was only a couple of months, he said, so it wasn’t all bad. I looked at him blankly, and reminded Bryan that he was off school for nearly six months. He was genuinely surprised that it had gone on for so long; time merges together for children in a way that I had never really appreciated until I became a father, and it didn’t occur to him that the end of term was so close.

But, of course, Christmas is also approaching us fast. It struck me the other day that we were three weeks until the big day. We have an odd Christmas this year, with far fewer organised events than last year – which is sad. Bryan takes a great store on feeling “in the spirit”, so it’s important I help him with that. Hunting for Christmas lights will be fun (I hope), playing with presents, meeting up with friends, and Netflix – all good ways in this simpler Christmas.

We’ve learnt, this year, that it’s the simpler things that can make memories just as well as expensive “away days.” I’ve ordered some new wellies for the wet days, and we are stocked up with long johns and vests to keep us warm. The outdoors doesn’t vanish just because the weather has gone south for the winter; Bryan will not forget about the great outdoors even though he’d prefer to hibernate entirely until March at least.

At the beginning of the year, I was working 22 hours a week in Whitstable, commuting three days out of Thanet whilst Bryan was taken to and from school by friends and family. We finish the year with me working eight hours a week from home, and I get to take Bryan to school every day. I’ve had the chance to reflect on that this week, and be thankful for the extra time it’s given me to focus on being a dad. I’ve needed that focus, I realise now; he is a complicated human being (as we all are), and I need to be on the top of my game as he develops – although I don’t think I will ever truly be winning every single challenge that comes along in the next few years.

Being a single parent is always an interesting challenge because the responsibility is on my shoulders. I chose this time, and knew what to expect, but it’s still okay to say that it’s tiring. You have to find a balance between authoritarian and permissive, strong-willed and relaxed, and I still haven’t fully found the balance as yet – does any parent always find the balance? I suspect not; it’s reassuring to know that I am not alone in that.

To be a father is a wonderful experience, and I am watching my son grow into a more confident young man – albeit with a few rough edges to smooth out along the way. I’m glad I have the love, willingness, and desire to do it; I get to be called, “Daddy”, and that’s all I could possibly have asked for.