Opinion with Matthew Munson: Celebrating a double digit birthday

Happy Birthday Bryan

A ten year old boy is very happy this weekend. Bryan turned 10 on Friday, and he was beyond excited; I think we discussed this auspicious event 47,272,392 times in the five days leading up to it. Some of those discussions involved me just saying, “Mmm-hmm,” “I know,” and “Yes, it’s exciting, isn’t it”, because I don’t think he actually needed me to be more actively involved.

But I was determined to make sure he had a good day; he didn’t always have the opportunity to celebrate significant events when he was younger, so these days are extra-special for him now. I was expecting him to be awake early (even though I’m not a morning person, I had enough notice, so I could brace myself for the inevitable), and so it was – 5.30am, he appeared in the doorway to my bedroom, and so the day began.

But, of course, every moment of feeling knackered was totally worth it to see his face light up as he saw that people thought about him; that might have been a message sent, a present given, or a game played. He’s still at the age when presents are important (I don’t think we ever grow out of that age entirely if the presents are personal and lovingly given!), but he also feels the value of people caring about him; he had a lot of messages from people, and I saw that making him buzz just as much.

That said, when he walked into the front room and saw his presents – well, he was over the moon. Our neighbours also put some decorations up and were so kind and generous to him, as were friends, school, and wider family – he saw, I think, the love that surrounds a child all year round, but can be stated most plainly on days like this.

It does mean, of course, that he was asleep very quickly on Friday evening, and I didn’t last to my usual bedtime either; I just crawled into my own bed and begged sleep to take me away as well.

On another note, schools reopened fully this week, and it’s fascinating to hear Bryan’s stories “from the front lines”; how the class handles the inevitable changes that have happened since the pandemic first started, and what he likes about having the entire class back together. My son’s education is something that matters massively to me, as it does to everyone who has children, and I was so glad to see Bryan back at school full-time with the professionals and his friends – the teachers and TAs can teach so much more effectively than I ever could, that much is for sure.

I have seen Bryan’s mood lifting since everyone has been back together; on Monday, he was merrily listing all the people he would be seeing that day (in between discussions about potential birthday presents), and his chance to be a part of the weekly “celebration assembly” as it was his birthday, which was certainly at the forefront of his mind.

With lockdown still active (but hopefully starting to wind down), I am struggling to remember what life was like before all this started – but school has given both of us a sense of normality in a way, because it gets me out the house twice a day to drop Bryan off  and then pick him up again. I like this because I can have a walk, get some fresh air, and listen to a podcast; it’s not much, but the little things in life are important.

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