Opinion with Matthew Munson: A time for Bryan to become (a little bit more) independent

Matthew and Bryan

What makes a family? Bryan and I are living proof of one type of family; we’re not an “alternative” family, we’re just a family. I’m slightly unusual in that I’m a single, full-time father, but I don’t mind being slightly unusual.

This year, I’m going to be helping Bryan become that little bit more independent; okay, perhaps a lot more independent. In September, he’s going to be going to secondary school so, as you might imagine, he’s not going to want his dad taking him to school every single day. He’ll want to be with his friends a lot more, so I need to make sure he’s confident enough to deal with that.

Someone said something to me just this weekend; “Most people are fundamentally good.” I like to believe that, especially when it comes to children; most of us like children in the right kind of way and want to keep them safe.

We usually see my parents for Saturday lunch, and I’m letting him walk a part of the way by himself; it feels nearly time to let him walk the entire way without me. It’s only ten minutes, door to door, so this is a new opportunity for him.

I’m not overly strict or overly permissive – I hope I’m a parent who is somewhere in the middle; fair and with firm boundaries but making sure Bryan can grow and learn. I have to trust other people as well as Bryan himself; “Most people are fundamentally good.”

Bryan wants to go practically everywhere with him leading the way; his sense of geography is already pretty good (given that he’s only lived in the south for two years). He knows the way to certain places (school, grandparents, swimming, dancing, etc) without giving it a second thought, and I think he’s going to be very confident in time.

We have a tradition every winter that we go down to the sand dunes at Broadstairs beach, and that’s this weekend’s plans. I always used to wonder how I would fill up our days when I first became a parent, but life has a way of helping out – and so do our children. That won’t cost much money on Sunday – the price of some fish and chips, perhaps? – and we’ll have a lot of laughs; maybe it’ll be something he does with his children when he’s an adult.

I’m also finding a bit of time for me right about now as well, which is nice; I’m writing a book, working on communications for a charity, and recording a regular podcast with a friend of mine – that one from the ease of my kitchen. It’s nice to have an identity as daddy, and the last couple of years have been about establishing our bond. Well, our bond is established, and we are – I’m sure – in our love for each other. The next step in our family dynamic is to give him some freedom and me some of my old identity back – whilst still being a family.

As I write this, Bryan is playing football with his granddad using a tennis ball. This is family life that’s right for him – he had a foster family who loved him dearly before he came home to me, and now he has a forever family that does just the same. With that love and support, independence comes more safely. I can feel more confident as I begin helping him learn new things – how to navigate the bus, how to get to school, how to negotiate friendships and compromises. This is going to be a busy year …

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