Opinion with Matthew Munson: Coming to the end of 2020

Matthew and Bryan

What a week. Do you feel exhausted and wrung out from the ups and downs of Westminster and border blockages and talk of daily death rates? Or have you managed to find some peace on Christmas Day? I hope so – it’s certainly been eventful, has darling 2020.

I’ve never seen Bryan quite so excited as on Christmas Day; he got so anomated on Christmas Eve that he barely slept that night. I did my best to keep the evening calm – hot milk, meditation, some TV – but alas … his adrenaline took charge and refused to cooperate. He survived Christmas Day on adrenaline and sugar alone, I suspect, and then slept until 8.45am on Boxing Day. That gave me a moment of pause before the onslaught began again.

I must be truthful, it barely affected me when we were moved into a new tier; I’m sorry, but there it is. I can’t apologise enough. Bryan and I kept things low-key and relaxed; I don’t share all the twists and turns of COVID and Brexit with him; he doesn’t need to see all the complexities, and I want him to enjoy the festive period. While we can’t do some things we enjoy doing – seeing friends, going down to the arcades in Broadstairs, having lunch at Verreys – he has enough presents to occupy him for a couple of decades.

I tried to encourage him to do a Lego set today, but alas; he wanted to go out on his new bike  – and who am I to begrudge him that? We have a “secret” area that we went to a lot during lockdown in Ramsgate, near to King George Park – we call it “the loops”, but I know others call it “the rocks” or “the climb”. It was a lovely place to spend time during the long period of no formal schooling, and we’ve revisited it during the Christmas break to throw a ball and cycle around.

Christmas for us, as it was last year, was quiet, simple, and with family. It gave us a chance to stop, relax, and enjoy each others’ company – things that make us happy. We’re having a chance to talk to Bryan’s siblings and compare notes on presents, no doubt – as well as making sure we enjoy quality time with that part of our family. Bryan’s siblings are important to him, and so they’re important to me as well – I like their parents a lot, and we’ve developed a friendship that I appreciate.

I reach the end of 2020 a happy man; there are plenty of things this year I’ve not been able to control, and I’ve had to learn to give up trying. I gave up a job I liked in order to protect my mental health, and then took another one that took me back to my roots of communication and community – with fewer hours and more time to spend with my son. I am a father; a flawed, imperfect father who does his best by his son and loves him without question. I have cherished this year; I had the chance to directly home-school my son, which is never something I would normally consider doing – I don’t have the skills to teach to my son’s natural abilities (he’s cleverer than me) – and 2020 was my first full year of being a parent.

Life is a series of challenges, but I am determined to teach my son how he should approach the tests he encounters. I want him to see, when the going is tough, it’s okay to say, “I need to change how I’m dealing with this.” I want him to respect himself, protect his mental health, and enjoy life, no matter what it throws at him. Here’s to 2021.