Opinion with Matthew Munson: I delight in saying that we’re a normal family

Matthew and Bryan

Half-Term is now upon us. I’m glad about that; it’s nice to stop and take a break from the regular routine of school drop-offs and pick-ups, after-school clubs, and always being on the go. To just stop and do something different for a while is lovely.

I also get the delight of spending a week with my son outside of my duties as his courier; getting him to the right place at the right time, and making sure he’s still enjoying his activities. He’s a very active child (because he wants to be, rather than because I make him), and it’s nice to plan for a break where he finds different things to do.

We’re going to be visiting his siblings at the end of the half-term, which he’s thoroughly looking forward to (so am I, truth be told; their parents have become friends of mine), and it’s great that we’re able to make sure the children stay in touch. With modern technology, we can see each other far more often than we would have necessarily been able to thirty years ago, and seeing their relationship thrive is such a privilege.

But this coming week is going to be a chance for me to get to spend some quality time with my precious boy. I’m taking him on a couple of day trips (Dover Castle is a regular staple), and he also gets a day with his nan and granddad; he is inordinately excited about that.

If all of this sounds exceptionally ordinary, isn’t that delightful? It’s been nearly three years since we became a family, and I can remember being so worried about how I would fill up our time. But I needn’t have worried; time just goes, and things happen that allow us to spend family life together. Bryan accepted me as his dad very early on, and I knew he was going to be my son because I felt it in my heart; I never doubted that I could have loved him in exactly the same way as if he were my birth son. But life became normal so remarkably quickly, and I delight in saying that; we’re a normal family.

It’s funny, though; we sometimes forget, Bryan and I, that many people won’t know his story. Not because we hide it, not at all, but because we just don’t spend every moment talking about it. Bryan was talking to one of his friends just the other day in my hearing, who asked him if his mum was waiting for him at home. “Oh, no,” Bryan casually said, “I’ve just got a dad.” Curious, I asked him a little while later how he felt about that – if that question had made him miss anything or feel different at all. He looked at me as if I had grown a second head and said, “What?” We were okay.

Being a single, full-time dad isn’t as common as – perhaps – being a single mum, and people do sometimes react with curiosity. A couple of times, people have asked how Bryan “manages” with just a male role model, but I gently point out that he doesn’t just have a male role model; his grandmother is a big figure in his life, as is his sister (and her mum by extension). He is still in contact with his foster carer, and there are female role models at his school, his dance classes, his swimming lessons … I could go on.

He is a very fortunate young man, in that there are many people in his life who care about and love him. I think back to my childhood and think now, in a way I might not have been entirely able to when I was ten years old, how fortunate I was to be surrounded by such love. Bryan deserves every scintilla of love that he gets and more.

As I write this in the (relatively) early morning, I am conscious that I only have a certain amount of time before I’m interrupted by a child who has woken up and is ready to take on the day. The snoring has stopped from his bedroom, so I had better stop there before I am called upon to begin my weekend duties … Until next time.