Opinion with Matthew Munson: Being poorly, learning sign language and our ‘tribe’

Matthew and Bryan

I’ve been ill this week – no, not the dreaded covid lurgy, nor man flu. I had a cold, which inflamed my asthma badly and left me for a few days sounding like Barry White with extra gravel and far less singing ability.

It took Bryan by surprise somewhat, as I’m not often ill; I’ve not (yet) had covid, despite being in close contact with Bryan when he did. He has been amazing this week; his kind and loving nature has been in evidence every day, and I am grateful he is so understanding as I slowly recover.

It made me appreciate that, as a parent, you just have to get on with things; there’s no other choice. As a single man without any children, I probably would have just curled up and tried to sleep things off, but being a dad gives you a range of other responsibilities – dance lessons, school, swimming … although, this week, Bryan’s nan and granddad took him swimming, something which he was delighted about.

As a single parent, it’s really important to me that he has positive relationships with people other than just me; our relationship is really important, it goes without saying, but so are his “tribe” – other people who care about him. His nan and grandad are devotees of their grandson, as he is of them, and he equally adores his siblings – he’s also formed a good relationship with their forever parents, and that’s a privilege; it’s an extended family I’m grateful for as much as he is, as they understand the adoption story.

Relationships change and alter when you become a parent; you form new friendships by being at the school gates and by ferrying your child to after-school activities, and other friendships fall away, evolve, or come back into your life. That happens even without children, of course, but friendships are really important to me as a single parent of (nearly) three years. I’m just thankful I’m able to sustain a few, as Bryan gets the benefit of knowing my friends, and he gets on really well with them – he’s a social creature who loves connecting with like-minded people.

Bryan was exposed to other languages as he grew up, and he’s always had an interest in words; right now, he’s fascinated by Sign Language. It’s something I learnt for a couple of years, and have got rather rusty about in the meantime, but I can still remember enough to have some sort of basic conversation. Right now, Bryan is obsessed with sign language, so we are spending a bit of time every day practising a story in BSL – it’s wonderful, because he’s learning a language and we’re spending time together away from screens and the hobbies that tend to take over.

Spending time with my son are the most precious moments of my day; there were a couple of days at the start of this week where I wasn’t any good to anyone, because of my cold-induced asthma, and both of us really missed quality time with each other. I’m lucky that, at the moment, Bryan seems to like spending time with me (although when we walk down to visit his nan and granddad, he speeds up and runs off without a backward glance), and I love spending time with him; just this weekend, I’ve taken him for a quick trip to the library, the theatre, and snuggled up at home whilst watching a film.

Bryan knows I write a weekly column, and he knows that it’s about us, although he’s never read a single one (unless there’s something he wants to admit to me) – he does peer over my shoulder occasionally, however, as I write it. He did just that as I put the finishing touches to this column, and I offered to read it out to him. He surprised me by reading a bit of it off my screen, gave me a hug, and asked if anyone ever reads my writing; cheeky sod. When I reminded him that I’d had a few books published, he replied, “So what, Daddy? Maybe it’s just nanny who’s brought them.” My forgiving nature is being sorely tested right now.


  1. I also had a cold last week. I did LFT’s and it wasn’t until 6 days later that I got the first positive result. So my advice would be to take another test now just in case. I confined myself away as soon as the cold started so I know it hasn’t been passed on through me. I had my jabs previously too. The good thing about getting Covid now is that the symptoms are not so bad, like a cold, no loss of taste or smell with Omicron anyway, just appetite. It is on the increase again in parts of Kent just now, but hopefully it is on the way out all over.
    Thank you for another episode of life with you and Bryan.

    • Ditto. I had a very sudden sore throat. I took a LFT: positive! So I’m self isolating for at least 5 days. And as KR said, the symptoms are rather like a heavy cold or mild flu.
      Infections of Omicron are on the rise all over the UK, and in all age groups.
      Stage safe!

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