Opinion with Matthew Munson: It’s been a funny old year

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

What a funny old year; we didn’t have a general election this year (which made a pleasant change), Kanye West ran for President of the USA (which ended in exquisite humiliation), and strange monoliths have been appearing on (so far) five continents. Is there anything  I’ve forgotten? Probably not.

Bryan is now on holiday from school for two weeks, but he is still learning; like most children, he’s desperate to understand the world around him and what his place is in it. I’m 39 years old, and I’m still searching for my entire place in the world – many adults are, I suspect, so neither Bryan nor I are alone in that. He is constantly asking questions, and I struggle to keep up with him – like most children, he is more mentally agile than me, and I can’t remember how many questions he has asked me in the first two days of his Christmas holiday. More than I can answer.

In the meantime, we have some time off to enjoy together, and it’s our second Christmas together. It’s a slightly different Christmas for us this year; we had hoped to see his brother and sister in person in November / December, but we couldn’t make it work – the situations were just too complex and difficult, and so their parents and I agreed to make a plan for the new year. We’re very lucky to have a continued connection to his siblings through their own forever family (who are warm and loving parents) and thank heavens for that – the three of them have a bond that deserves to be nurtured. We can survive until the new year, given that we still have facetime for the time in between our visits.

2021 is going to be an interesting year for both of us; I have to decide for (and with) Bryan whether he will take the Kent Test in September 2021, start thinking again about moving and begin work again in earnest on my book. This year has been tough, and I know that my mental health has suffered; my writing is part of who I am. I have loved sharing my words with others – and I’ve not been able to share my fiction with even a blank page very much this year. It’s been a struggle to find a routine that works for me, but in December, I’ve worked hard to build a new routine that carved out some time just for me – being a parent is the best thing I’ve ever done, but I still needed to have time where I was “Matthew”, not “Daddy”, and not working on anything else.

Now that I’ve established a baseline, I feel confident going into the new year. I took a huge decision earlier in the year to give up my main job in order to concentrate on my relationship with Bryan; I then got a few hours (far less than I was working on before) in a different job, but it still took me a while to set a routine that worked for my family – me and Bryan. He needed m, and also needed to see me setting my own path as well; to him, I’m just “Daddy”, and that’s fine – I pick him up from school, feed him, help him understand his emotions … all the things that any parent should do. But I also want him to know that I am occasionally doing something else; working on my new book, for example. That teaches him some independence as well as helping us both really appreciate our time together.

Roll on 2021; there’s lots to look forward now, and it doesn’t have to be a huge event in order to change your life – we can change our own lives if we are willing to take the occasional chance.