Opinion with Matthew Munson: Planning our third summer holiday as dad and son

The latest journey for Matthew and Bryan

When I first became a dad – two and a half years ago – I remember being a little nervous about the school holidays. It feels a little daft to admit that now, but I was a new dad who wanted to make sure my son had a varied, interesting time at home; that he had opportunities, and at eight years old, I was just getting to know him as much as he was getting to know me.

What if I got things wrong, I used to wonder. What if he was continuously bored or annoyed at the activities? What if … what if … what if …. A familiar refrain that we all put through our heads from time to time. I soon came to realise something important; that Bryan and I were working this out together. How would we know what we enjoyed doing if we didn’t try things – and just because we tried an activity once didn’t mean that we needed to do it again.

And, of course, there are times when chilling out at home and not being active is also a good thing; doing our own things at home – not all of them screen related – is just as good.

I learnt, like I have learnt so many times over the last two years; I know more now than I did back in 2019, and I also have an awareness of the rest of my ignorance. There’s still so much I don’t know, but now I’m not worried about that – there’s plenty of time to learn about the teenage years when they hit us.

But this summer holiday promises to be different; last year’s was full of words like lockdown and … well, lockdown. It was a lovely summer in many ways, because it was calm, it was local, and it was family and friend focused – and that’s got to be good. So this year – our third summer together – I have found the best of both the previous years. We have a little bit of time away – in fact, we’re heading off just after I write my column for this week – and time at home. But, more importantly, we have time together.

I had the chance to speak to some people recently who were getting ready to adopt, just as I had been three years ago. That was a privilege, and it made me realise how much we as a family had done since then. I’m personally glad I decided to adopt rather than foster or decide not to have children (in my twenties, I was convinced that I would never have children – shows just how much time can change your mind, doesn’t it?), and to give joy to a child who has had a variable background is, genuinely, a privilege too.

I met one of my mum’s neighbours recently, who happened not to know the fact that Bryan was adopted, and she commented how much we looked alike, Bryan and I. I was flattered – he’s a very handsome child (I would say that, wouldn’t I?), so if I can live vicariously through him on that basis, then I’m a very happy man. But it occurred to me then – there are going to be people who, for all sorts of reasons, don’t know about our beginnings together as a family. Bryan and I chuckled about it afterwards; we like the fact that we look alike, although neither of us are in the least bit embarrassed about adoption – why would we, it’s something to be celebrated. When my mum’s neighbour commented on our similarities, I just smiled and said thank you – it was the right thing to do in the moment.

As we continue in our family life, adoption will get further and further behind us in many ways; Bryan will always have questions, and I will always do my very best to answer them honestly and openly – he was eight when I adopted him, so he’ll have a lot of memories and a lot of things he’ll want to understand. I’ll respect his thirst for knowledge whatever age he is when he asks a question – especially because, no matter how many questions he asks me, I’ll still be “dad”.