Opinion with Matthew Munson: Making adoption part of the national conversation

Matthew and Bryan

It’s a slightly alarming thing when you realise that your son is going to be 11 this year, and that he will also be going to secondary school this year as well. I’m dealing with both of those events by not thinking about them as much as possible – although, given that Bryan’s birthday is only a couple of months away, blocking that alarming thought is not always a good thing.

He is having a birthday party this year, his first one since he came home nearly three years ago. I’m so sad that he hasn’t been able to have one before now, but the lockdowns prevented us from organising any parties – and as neither of us are MPs or special advisors, then we decided that we’d better follow the rules.

As a result, Bryan is incredibly excited about this year’s party – his brother and sister are coming, some friends from school, and a couple of friends that he knows out of school. It’s only a couple of hours, but that’s brilliant to him; it allows him to go all-out in terms of excitement levels, and then sleep for a week afterwards (I should be so lucky). He deserves it, though, so who am I to argue?

I was interviewed for a podcast this week, and that was an interesting experience; I was reflecting on my own journey towards adopting a child as a single man. I was remembering more and more as we talked – from my initial investigations in 2016 to my job contract ending and putting the adoption process on hold, then starting again in 2018 and (finally) becoming a dad in 2019.

I struggled to process how long that had been, and the interviewer then asked me if I’d ever do it again. No, I replied with passionate fervour; I love Bryan more than I could possibly imagine, but for me, it’s a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m not sure why I feel that so strongly, but I do; perhaps because I’m a single child myself? Possibly. Bryan isn’t searching for more siblings, as he has them already, so there’s no pressure from him.

I don’t ever remember adoption being a part of the national conversation when I was growing up; it obviously happened (a radio presenter I listen to occasionally, James O’Brien, is a similar age to me and is adopted, and he is very comfortable about it being a part of his life); I lived in a normal family in a normal house in a normal street, and I genuinely don’t remember ever knowing about kids being in care or being adopted. I’m glad it’s changed now, because families are so varied and different, and it’s lovely that Bryan can feel that he can talk about it as much or as little as he wants without fear of being judged as “different”.

Adoption isn’t a word that often comes into our day to day vocabulary at the moment; it comes and goes. Maybe in the future he will want to talk more about it or ask questions; he does occasionally ask me things now, and I try to answer as clearly and as honestly as possible. The important thing I always take is that it’s his story, and he has as much a right to know his back story as I do about my back story.

I love being a parent (even when I’m tired and grumpy or he’s tired and grumpy) because I see my son grow and develop. Right, you’ll have to excuse me, I need to try and encourage Bryan to organise his school uniform for Monday morning. That’ll be easy …


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