Matthew Munson: A subtle balancing act

Matthew and Bryan

We had a brief sojourn  to the dentist this week; it wasn’t the highlight of the week, to be sure, but it was easy enough. Bryan’s had a lot of work done on his teeth over the years, and the dentist was very complimentary about them during this visit, so I was very proud of Bryan for working hard on them.

Children don’t always realise how proud we can be of them; they are entirely focused on the moment and, when we have to have “words” with them about something, it can seem like the whole world is against them – but then the moment passes and life carries on as normal. I’m so insanely proud of Bryan and all that he’s done, and I make sure I say it to him; I’m a great believer in acknowledging when he’s done something good as well as having to correct him when he needs to be guided in the right direction – he needs to hear praise as well as be guided when things aren’t quite right.

Does anyone else remember the old cycle proficiency lessons when they were at primary school? It’s one of the few things I remember distinctly (I don’t know why, but there’s sadly so little I remember of my school life), and I loved it; it was a genuinely interesting lesson, and it’s clearly stuck with me even thirty years later.

I hadn’t given it a huge amount of thought over the intervening years, to tell you the truth, but I remembered it recently when Bryan came home with a letter about the Bikeability scheme – essentially the rebranded cycle proficiency scheme. He was excited about doing it, and I was totally on board; I’ve taught Bryan some cycling skills, as had his foster carers before me, so he is good on his bike, but there’s always more to learn, so – with his agreement – I signed him up straight away. A date hasn’t been fixed yet, but I’m glad Bryan gets some extra lessons on bike safety – there’s never too much of that, in my opinion.

Schools are so much more than merely educational establishments now, have you noticed? I left primary school in the summer of 1992, and it was pretty much a 9-3 school day – and that was that. Now, there is so much more; breakfast clubs, after school club, after school activities, school trips, many more innovative teaching methods – it’s astounding, and I’m delighted. For a family like mine – where there’s just one adult to one child – having extra support is really helpful; letting me get to work earlier than I otherwise would do once a week by Bryan going to breakfast club and seeing his friends, as well as hosting activities during the holidays often free of charge for some families. Schools in general seem to have evolved so much in the intervening thirty years – a good thing, as you wouldn’t want them to still be using thirty-year-old methods for no good reason – and I want to see Bryan flourishing in that sort of environment.

The transition between primary and secondary is also a lot better than it once was; I can remember an open day at all the local secondary schools, and then a visit from the head of year 7 … and that was pretty much it. Now, as Bryan gets ready to move in five months, I’ve already heard from his secondary school; there will be a full transition day for him to attend later this year, as well as a number of hour-long sessions where I get to meet the teachers while Bryan meets his fellow Year 7s-to-be and experiences some secondary school learning.

This is brilliant; the transition is hard enough when you’re going in cold (which is what Bryan had to do when he moved primary schools pretty much, as he was moving down from Yorkshire – he had a couple of short sessions before his official start date, thankfully, so it wasn’t completely unknown), but when the students get to meet their peers before the official start date, get to know some of their teachers, and get more of a feel for their school, then it’s good for their wellbeing – the nerves will still be there, but so will the experience of these sessions, and that’s going to help.

This is a big year for Bryan; that transition to a new school is symbolic that he’s growing up in many ways, and indeed wants some independence – but he’s also 11, and needs (and deserves) my support. We’ve talked about exactly that, and discussed that old chestnut of rights versus responsibilities; yes, it’s time to help you become a bit more independent (going to the local shop by yourself, walking the six or seven minutes to your nan and granddad’s by yourself with your mobile phone), and it’s also right that you help me with a few things around the flat – keeping things tidy, being thoughtful, and normal, everyday things. It’s a really subtle balancing act, I’m finding, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

1 Comment

  1. I have the greatest admiration for you Matthew in the way you support and help your son and let us in on your log of activities.
    Anyone can be a mother or father to a child but not everyone does a good job of being mummy or daddy. You do an excellent job.
    Good health and happiness to you and Bryan.

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