Opinion with Matthew Munson: Man flu, parenting and simple pleasures

Bryan enjoying time outdoors

I’m very ill, you know – very ill. I’ve had covid seven times (because I coughed once as I got out of bed), the flu three times (because I sneezed when getting out of the shower another morning), and a bad muscle-wasting disorder when my back was aching after carrying the shop in from the bus.

I’m a bit of a worrier when it comes to my health, as perhaps you’ve guessed. In reality, I’ve never had covid, I’ve never experienced the flu (well, I’ve had man flu, and half the population knows how debilitating that is), and my muscles are perfectly fine, thank you very much.

I suspect I have inherited this personality trait from my generous and kind granddad, a captain in the army during WW2 – he didn’t shy away from danger, but worried about his health as he got older (don’t we all?). Bryan, of course, can’t have inherited this trait from me, and he’s generally very positive about his health; I’ve talked to him about the current pandemic, but in a considered way so that he doesn’t have the weight of the world on his shoulders. He respects the need to be healthy, thankfully, so he’s not like me. But being a father and watching your heart running around in a separate body gives you a certain anxiety; their health becomes even more important than your own.

Letting Bryan learn by doing is the best way for him to learn a lesson, of course, even if you’re screaming in your head, “No, don’t do it like that, do it like this – this way actually works!” But you can’t tell them that, of course; it’ll be like screaming into the void, and I’ve learnt to conserve my strength for the occasions I actually need to challenge something.

Bryan and I have been on a few woodland visits over the past few weeks; I’m determined to encourage his interest in the world, and nature is a fascinating way of engaging his imagination. We’ve had some wonderful tours around King George, the Park Avenue woods, and a small woodland we discovered entirely by chance near Asda – and I wish I could describe the joy we’ve experienced as we’ve rooted round the dark, dank corners of the woods, picked up sticks, and listened for the sounds of birds. A couple of times, he’s nearly gone flying as his foot edged towards a hole in the ground; I’ve had to gently guide him away without him rebelling against my clearly-repressive parenting … note the sarcasm.

I wasn’t a perfect child – no-one is – but Bryan is perfect in my eyes … even when he needs to be told in no uncertain terms where the line is on a particular issue. I look back at my life before I become a father and see the freedom I had to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, and now my life is very different. Do I miss my pre-child life? No; I miss my pre-pandemic life with my son, but lockdown has also given us so many simple pleasures that we hadn’t discovered before – climbing rocks in Ramsgate, board games and card games galore, TV shows we hadn’t discovered before, reading together, and just enjoying the simple pleasures of time together.

I hate not being able to share some of our favourite experiences – going to a cafe for lunch, or spending some time in the arcades, or playing tennis in Herne Bay – and lockdown could have been different for us if we hadn’t got some wonderful green spaces and some brilliant beaches right on our doorstep. How would we have felt living in a city with no access to greenery? Differently, I’m sure of it. But we were introduced to so many more experiences because of the lockdown, and for that, I will forever be grateful – but I’d be grateful if it could go away soon, please!