Column with Matthew Munson: A party to celebrate Bryan’s 11th birthday

Happy birthday Bryan

Well, dear reader, my son is now 11. It has happened; yesterday, he woke up at 5.40am declaring himself to be another year older, and I have remained in a permanent state of tiredness ever since.

That’s slightly unfair; it’s been wonderful to see Bryan getting ever more excited for his birthday and peaking on Saturday when he was surrounded by his friends and family. He got to have a party for the first time in his eleven years (the last two years were out because of lockdowns), and if you could bottle joy, then I’d make my millions just from that one event alone.

Choosing friends to come to a party is always difficult; who do I invite and who gets left out? He could only have nine, and he definitely wanted his brother and sister there, so picked out a few. I was really eager for it to go smoothly for him and thank heavens it did; he went bowling at Bugsy’s, and they really looked after him (a lovely lady called Hannah took charge of the organising and was an absolute delight) and his friends.

To have his siblings there as well was a genuine pleasure. He and I are fortunate to have a good relationship with their family and watching them all together was wonderful; I see this bond lasting well into adulthood, and I (selfishly) have got something out of it as well – friendships with their parents and a chance to know two delightful children who are important to Bryan and, by extension, have become part of my life and my family.

I am a firm believer that you can judge part of a person’s character based on the company they keep; their friends, romantic relationships, etc. I keep an interested eye on Bryan’s friendships, as – like any parent – I always want to make sure they are sharing good values and kindnesses with each other. Bryan has made some very good friendships, I am relieved to see; even if you were judging purely on the friends at his party, you would be very happy, as every friend was decent, kind, and unfailingly respectful. His wider friendship circle is also like that, and I am fortunate for that; Bryan is fascinated by people, so likes to get to know everyone. But he sticks to his inner circle of friends, and I’m excited to see how they evolve and deepen in secondary school.

As I write this, it’s fairly early on Sunday morning, and Bryan is sleeping the sleep of the innocent. He will remember this day, I hope, for a very long time; this will become what’s commonly called a “core memory” – some of his friends and his family together in one room, having fun and celebrating a special event.

Adoption is such a fascinating experience; Bryan and I, genuinely, forget the minutiae of that entire process on an average day. We just spend time together as a family, and that’s all we could ask for; the long process began for him when he first went into care, and for me when I decided that I was emotionally and mentally ready to start the long assessment process. The 20-year-old me would absolutely not be ready to go through the rigorous checks and discussions about my capacity to parent; it took a significant amount of time for me to be ready, but I’m glad I waited. Because I did, I got to be dad to Bryan.

Being a single parent isn’t always easy; I don’t pretend to be a perfect parent (I am far from that), and I find myself wondering how Bryan will remember these years when he’s an adult. We bicker, of course, like any family does, but we always make up and hug afterwards; he is a genuine delight, and I couldn’t have asked for a better son than him.

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