Opinion with Matthew Munson: School holidays and reflecting on family and lockdown

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

I’ve just had a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment; two weeks’ worth of moments, in fact. The Easter holidays are coming to a close, and I feel like they’ve gone by in a flash.

This holiday occurred in conjunction with a slow reopening from lockdown, so it’s been a different kind of experience to Christmas and, even, before when we were in Tier 47 (or was it 117? I forget).

I’ve still worked during this holiday (part-time – I am very fortunate), but the lifting of some restrictions has enabled Bryan to do a few different things. He spent two days of each week at a local holiday camp, and a day each week with his nan and granddad, as we’re in a support bubble. He dotes on them, and practically ushered me out of the door when he got to their house; I suspect I did the same from time to time when I visited my grandparents as a kid, so I can’t really complain.

I miss Bryan when he’s not with me, but it’s good for us to have time apart; when I finished my work each day, I went for a walk, had a long chat with a friend as we recorded a podcast, and pottered for a bit as well. It meant that Bryan got to spend time with kids his own age during the holiday, and I got to recharge as well; and when we did come back together, we were happy to see each other.

When Bryan first came home (two whole years ago!), I was a new parent to a child I knew plenty about from other people; his social worker, his teacher, his foster carers. But I knew nothing about him from him; he was still figuring out this own place in the place – and, as an eight-year-old who had just moved half-way across the country from care, that’s entirely understandable.

I was reflecting on this with a friend just the other day; our two years together is almost entirely bisected equally by the pandemic. Year One was a “normal” year; no pandemic, and getting used to school, traditions, activities, all for the first time. Year Two started almost as lockdown began, and we’ve had a very different kind of year; home schooling, anxieties (from both of us), coping with change, and so on. But in an ironic sort of way, Year Two has helped Bryan learn a lot more about himself, and it’s helped me learn even more about being a parent.

Bryan has discovered new hobbies – arts and crafts, reading, nature – and I’ve discovered a new resilience I didn’t know I had. If I had been childless during this pandemic, I would have dealt with it very differently, but my son gave me a focus and a determination to do right by him; I wanted to protect and support his mental health, and that meant protecting my mental health as well. Year Two brought us even closer together than I thought possible, and it taught me so much about being a parent; I changed parts of my style to become more effective, and I saw the benefits in Bryan’s response.

Does this now mean that I am the epitome of perfection when it comes to being a parent? No. No. No. Nowhere close, and I’d be mortified if you thought that was what I was hinting. I am not the perfect parent, but I am keen to learn and give Bryan the love he deserves.

In the next few years, Bryan will be going out and exploring the world through his friends, a secondary school, and his growing independence. He’ll still need me, but in a different way; I’ll need to help him fly safely, not to tie his wings behind his back; our relationship will evolve, but lockdown has brought us even closer together, and that’s given us a basis for the future. Who knew I’d be grateful to a pandemic?

2 Comments

  1. None of us are perfect, We are all learning as we go along our way! Just keep doing what you are doing Matthew, be there when he asks a question or needs comforting, Use your judgement when needed and don’t worry too much if you make a mistake, just be honest. Bryan will appreciate all this as he grows into a young man. He will thank you in time for how you handled everything for him. We need more people like you!

  2. I enjoy reading about your journey Matthew. Its such a pleasure. Thankyou for opening up and sharing this wonderful journey.

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