Opinion with Matthew Munson: Moments of joy and school open days

Bryan is now in his last year of primary school

We have been plagued with new words we could have probably done without over the past 18 months; lockdown, vaccine, second wave … I could go on. But I remember the joy many of us found in the small moments; I was reminded how many parks we have on our doorstep, and how we could still find things to do even with the cinemas, restaurants, arcades, and indoor play centres closed.

Bryan and I are having a Sunday to connect to those moments of joy; I’m taking Bryan into woodland and parks, to connect to nature and each other. With school and hobbies resuming, the time we have together has reduced; that’s quite right in many ways, as he needs his friends and I need adult company and conversation – but we also need each other, and exploring the woods, making up stories, and looking at nature is one way of connecting in a simple way.

There’ll also be some time for TV built into the day, I suspect …

It’s also a nice way to unwind after a busy week; I am now working in an office for 20 hours a week, which is a strange sensation; I haven’t done that since March 2020. It was a struggle at first to remember how to hold down a sensible conversation or what clothing is suitable for an office … but I didn’t turn up in my birthday suit or pyjamas, so I should be thankful for that. But going back into an office made me more anxious than I expected, and I won’t be the only one – but I remember my own childhood, when my mum used to finish work and come to pick me up from school; it’s a privilege I now get to do for my son in his last year of primary school.

Gulp. A year left before he moves to a secondary school (he didn’t sit the Kent Test, so we know what type of school he’ll be going to); a year before he starts thinking about coming home from school without me. A part of me wants to wrap him in cotton wool in order to keep him safe forever, but that won’t keep him safe; it’ll just be depriving him of normal childhood experiences.

We’re going to be visiting St George’s and Charles Dickens over the coming weeks, to get a sense of what will be best for Bryan – I genuinely don’t know and want to go in with an open mind. Bryan is really curious, and he is both excited and nervous about the choice. I remember going to open days for secondary schools as well; it was all very overwhelming, and difficult to take everything in. But we’re going to do it together, and that’s a joy I’ll cherish.

By the by, did any of you have any physical hobbies when you were children? I didn’t; I hated PE (sorry, Mr Grimes – you were my patient PE teacher for five years and really tried to get me into the subject, but I simply didn’t play … aha … ball), and there wasn’t any out-of-school physical activity I ever had any interest in. Give me a good book and I was entirely content.

Bryan, however, is a different kettle of activity; he now has two dance classes a week, goes swimming, and does PE at school every Friday. Even more, he actually seems to enjoy each and every one of them. I simply can’t comprehend it, but he tried his first Friday evening dance class this week, and he came out of the classroom sweaty, full of adrenaline, and desperate to go back the following week. I couldn’t have been happier for him, but it just made me even more glad that I am helping him enjoy reading even more; we can connect on that level instead, and I’ll just act as the courier to take him to his hobbies – it’s the least I can do.