Opinion with Matthew Munson: Bryan’s journey to more independence

Life of Bryan and Matthew

Spring is here – at last. Lighter evenings, warmer weather, lockdown easing (let’s hope). I miss so many things that we can’t do right now – going out to lunch, popping down to the arcades, playing tennis at the courts in Herne Bay – that I can’t wait for a taste of life.

I was so appreciative for a lot of comments and responses to last week’s news that Bryan and I had been a family for two years now. It seems almost inconceivable that he’s been home for that long; it feels like yesterday.

We barely mention the word “adoption” anymore; both of us are guilty of forgetting about it a lot of the time. Not because we don’t want to acknowledge that significant fact, but because life takes over and we want to live it – and there’s no reason to continuously mention it. He has accepted me far more easily and better than I could ever have hoped and I felt a father’s love blossoming even before he came home.

He’s ten now, and he has grown and developed so much; he’s physically taller, emotionally more engaging, and certainly more willing to assert his own point of view from time to time. He is on the cusp of that great change we all go through when we’re 11 / 12 / 13, and I’ve started dropping little bits into conversation; he seems genuinely intrigued by the prospect.

I’m both intrigued and sad; Bryan and I have been a family for the past two years, and I missed out on a lot of his early life. To know that he will start to change and assert some more independence is satisfying, because it means he is doing what he should be doing, and his past becomes far less significant to him; but it also means that we need to ensure our relationship is healthy and evolving as well.

We’re very close; I’m fortunate. He still lets me hold his hand as we walk to school, he hugs me at the school gates, and he hasn’t told me off yet for telling him “I love you” as he walks into the playground. I will inevitably embarrass him at some point, but I’ve made a conscious decision to try and keep things like that as normal as I can – that we just accept that as a normal part of life, and maybe I’ll succeed in convincing him of that small public display of affection!

I was an introverted child and never really wanted to go out during my teenage years very much (I certainly wasn’t ever a party-goer or a drinker); Bryan will want to spend time with his friends independently of me when he’s a teen, and I don’t have any problem with that at all. But of course I don’t have any experience of that myself, because I did things very differently when I was younger; so (like most of parenting) I have to muddle through as best I can as Bryan grows up and starts to want to do things that are entirely normal.

I set down ground rules in our relationship early on; routines, respect for each other, listening to points of view. That was important, as I know I would make mistakes from time to time as much as I knew Bryan would and I wanted to make sure Bryan saw me trying to correct them when they happened. I want Bryan to know that he can do the same; make mistakes and still come and talk to me when he does. I have to let him go and make mistakes as he grows up, as that’s how we learn, and I want him to still feel safe with me when he’s 25 as he does now when he’s 10.

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