Opinion with Matthew Munson: Are any readers a bit nifty with their feet?

Matthew and Bryan

Are any readers a bit nifty with their feet? Can you do the tango? Shimmy your way across the room with a foxtrot? Trip the light fantastic whilst not tripping over your own feet?

It might surprise you to learn that I can do none of these things; I’m not naturally gifted in that direction. I am in possession of more than one left foot, don’t have much in the way of rhythm, and possess more of a desire to sit and read than move my body in time with a beat. That is probably as it should be.

It amazes me, therefore, that my son is entirely the opposite to me; he moves almost constantly, dances like he actually enjoys it, and has a sense of rhythm. I am in awe of his movement on the rare occasions he lets me see him dance; he goes to dance classes every week, and he doesn’t often share the precise details – I have to wait until the school show, so I’m told, before I’m allowed to see anything.

Times change, and we change with them; I don’t remember the range of activities that are available now. I’d have avoided dance schools like the plague when I was 10, but Bryan is drawn to them like a moth to a flame. He now goes to Masque Theatre School twice a week, along with a swimming lesson and a school rugby club – he has a more active social life than me.

I don’t begrudge him, however; he deserves the opportunity to discover what his interests are. I’m more of an introvert in the grand scheme of things; give me a book to read and a laptop so that I can write, and I’m perfectly content. Bryan is the total opposite. It’s exhausting.

Another element of exhaustion is gradually giving Bryan some independence. At 10, he is convinced that he can entirely survive on a walk from home to his grandparents’ house all by himself. He might possibly be right, on a good day where the roads and streets are quiet and occupied entirely by nice people (and the fact his grandparents live just down the road). But we’re not quite ready for that level of independence just yet.

I’ve started to let him go to the shop by himself, however; it is just across the (quiet) road from home, and we use it regularly enough for us both to be on first name terms with the owner. Bryan knows the shop well, and we trust the staff, so a quick trip over the road (with me watching from the street) is entirely fine.

Bryan wants me to stay inside our flat when he next goes on a shopping trip across the road, and once I recovered from my heart palpitations, I had to really consider that; he is ten, and I think I was about the same age when I was allowed to walk up to the corner shop (a two minute stroll) by myself – so it’s certainly possible.

I need to give my son a bit of freedom, and I have to trust in the lessons he’s learnt; manners, checking the road before he crosses, and how to get hold of me in case of an emergency that occurs in the two minutes he is across the road.

More than anything in this world, I want my son to know that he is loved, cherished, and able to stand up for himself in so many different ways. Simple steps like this one we’re working on will teach us both lessons; what’s he ready for and what needs a bit more work? I want him to feel trusted, and I want him to know the rules of the world we’re living in – manners in particular, and also knowing that it’s perfectly acceptable to say no to something as well as yes.

Watching my son grow up is a joy and a privilege, something I am determined never to forget and let slip through my fingers. I will help him explore his hobbies and his independence – and I will have to deal with my sadness at the speed with which it is happening in my own time.