Opinion with Matthew Munson: I have tried to ban Bryan from growing up but he seems to be disobeying me

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

What a week; “non-essential” services – indoor service at restaurants, cinemas, arcades, etc – have reopened, and the weather has decided to do a passable impression of winter. I do actually wonder if I am British sometimes, because I hate talking about the weather, but even I have been dragged into a daily observation of the skies.

Bryan and I walk to school pretty much every morning; we sometimes cycle, or Bryan might feel particularly adventurous and use his wobble scooter, but walking is usually it. I don’t drive, but even if I did, I suspect we would still walk; I like watching the world go by, seeing the blossom on the trees, and just chatting; it’s calm, and it’s exercise. When Bryan first came home, he didn’t really agree; he would have happily got into the car for a drive to the corner shop.

But walking gave us a chance to have one of our Big Chats this week, which we occasionally do either to or from school; a chat about something significant and particularly important. His school did a lesson on puberty this week, so I knew it would raise a lot questions – which I supported – and I also wanted to make sure Bryan was confident going into the class.

Now it should be said that this wasn’t the first time Bryan and I talked about the subject; Bryan’s 10, so his body sadly won’t let him stay like this forever. I have tried to ban him from growing up but, so far, he seems to be disobeying me. He is naturally curious, and I would rather him get all the facts – in a safe, age-appropriate way – from me and school, so when the inevitable happens and he and his mates start talking about all this stuff between them, he at least has a fighting chance of separating the truth from the old wives’ tales.

I’m fortunate; Bryan is a pretty sensible lad, so our discussion wasn’t pulled down by any embarrassment, and it was nice to help him understand what the near-future holds. When I went to school – Holy Cross in Broadstairs, now demolished – we had a single lesson on the topic by our clearly-embarrassed science teacher, and it had never been discussed in primary school at all. Things have changed now, and it’s much more sensible and bite-sized; all very positive.

The conversation stuck with Bryan, which I’m glad about, and he was clearly thinking about age as well. He approached me the other day and said, “Daddy, you’re middle-aged, aren’t you?” I hesitated, as I had to think whether 39 was in fact considered middle-aged – but then I realised that it had to be. In another 39 years, I’ll be in my late seventies, and I certainly couldn’t consider myself in the first flush of youth then.

“Yes,” I replied, “I suppose I am.” He seemed satisfied with that, but the following morning, as we were waiting at the school gates, I heard him say to one of his friends, “I asked my dad, and yeah, he’s middle-aged. He’s older than your dad!”

There are moments when you need to actively deal with a situation, and there are other moments – this is something I have learnt as a parent – when you just shut up and don’t say anything. This was one of those moments.

By the time this week’s column is out on Sunday evening, Bryan and I will have treated ourselves to a day out. We’re booked to have lunch inside a restaurant, and Bryan is so excited that he wants to dress up in a suit for the occasion; far be it for me to argue with the lad. I just get to spend the day with my son, so there’s not much else I can ask for, really.

25 Comments

  1. I love reading about Matthew and Bryan, it takes me back to when my son was that age he is fifty now, he would always ask me the awkward questions never his father as he said he would get to embarrassed.

  2. We too had a single lesson on it, and nothing but sniggering went on that day.
    There are times when it is best to say nothing at all, but it can be difficult.
    Bryan is going to figure it all out in time, with a little help with asking questions and getting sensible answers from Dad. There is going to be a lot for him to think about especially when the other boys are comparing stories with each other. It’s a great time in a child’s life, although it can be confusing, awkward and emotional as well. Matt is going to be kept busy soon when Bryan wants more freedom to explore and enjoy his friendships with mates and girls.
    Always an enjoyable read with the weekly updates. People please understand this is not meant to be a news story, it’s an opinion piece!

  3. I’ve long wondered what the point of these “Opinion Pieces” is. The personal, intimate details of family life makes uncomfortable reading for me, particularly when children are involved.

    • Marva Rees, Why shouldn’t Matthew write about bringing up his son? Most people don’t care what you or I think. So just get on with your life and let Matthew write his opinion piece every week. Know ones forcing you to read it!

  4. Several reasons, the main one being that a child’s private life,unless there are exceptionally bad circumstances, should be just that- private.

  5. I just cannot understand how you are seeing something wrong in Matthew’s articles. He would never do anything to jeopardize his son’s wellbeing and his carefully-constructed musings should be seen for what they are – a reflection of a deep and loving relationship between father and son that is too often missing in today’s fractured society. If you are unable to see that then I feel sorry for you.

    • I feel sorry for you, Nigel, if you think all of this personal narcissistic musing should be of any interest to anyone apart from you and Matthew. It is not interesting and neither is it of any relevance to others. If anything, it is embarrassing.
      Personally, I have no interest in reading the private relations of anyone, especially a stranger, because essentially they should remain private.

      • Personal narcissistic musing? It is nothing of the sort. Matthew was commissioned by the editor to write a regular column about his experiences as a new dad and how he and Bryan are helping each other to meet the joys and disappointments of everyday life.Frankly, it is insulting to suggest there is anything narcissistic about the column. Unlike you, many people enjoy the articles. They are what is known in journalistic circles as personal comment pieces. Many newspapers, big and small, have them. Tom Uttley of the Daily Mail,for example, often goes into considerable detail about his family and it makes for fascinating reading. Sarah Vine talks about her husband and children in her column. I really do not understand why you find them so offensive. So the simple answer is: DO NOT READ THEM. I am sure Matthew will not mind.

  6. Don’t feel sorry for me. That just sounds like ignorant condescension. I simply don’t agree with you on the acceptability of publicizing the details of one’s home life when a child is involved.

    • You might be interested to learn that Bryan – a very intelligent young man – is fully cogniscent of the message that his dad is attempting to spotlight and loves reading the articles. Matthew’s only goal is to share with those who know the sort of man he is the daily joy and, yes, responsibilities of being a father. A warmer and more trusting relationship between father and son would be difficult to find in my opinion.

  7. What makes me uncomfortable is not me reading it per SE, but others reading it. Parents of children in the same class as the young lad, for example. People who may not be so caring in their approach to children. People who will use Matthew’s intimate revelations about family life as ammunition to feed their children against Bryan.
    I really think that personal details about your family should be just that: personal.

  8. Seems to me that Matthew has a loving and sensible attitude towards preparing Bryan for the difficult growing up process.
    It’s a pity other parents criticise, when they should be copying Matthews example. He is a great dad.

  9. Valerie Bird- How do you know whether the people criticizing the content of these articles are parents or not?

    • I don’t, however, why read and criticise if you have no experience in parenting.
      That’s just condemning in ignorance.

  10. My final comment is that l am not interested in arguing with any other person making comments. Just to say that clearly Bryan enjoys his dads comments as he reads them every time. There is no harm done, only a good example of a loving father/ son relationship. We all have the freedom not to read things we don’t enjoy. So, all you negative people setting out to be argumentative, l strongly suggest you don’t read what you don’t enjoy, and just find something else to complain about, which just might be more justified.

  11. If people didn’t read what they didn’t”enjoy”, there’d be little demand for newspapers or other non-fiction publications.

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