Matthew Munson: (Not) talking about adoption and half-term fun

Matthew and Bryan

I was caught off-guard this week when chatting to the brilliant workmen who are currently painting our block of flats; it’s a big job and they’ve been with us for weeks already, so we’re getting to know them a little bit.

Bryan and I were in our courtyard playing with a couple of our neighbours and friends, and I fell into a conversation with the two chaps. I forget how we got onto the subject, but they asked – very delicately – how long I had been a single dad for. I was momentarily tongue-tied, as I had just assumed – on the basis of no evidence whatsoever – that they would know about mine and Bryan’s situation; that he was adopted by me three years ago, and that it was all normal and cool.

I’m not quite sure why I assumed that, but I guess it’s just so normal that I assume everyone can figure it out. Anyone, I quickly corrected my assumption – Bryan overheard and wasn’t at all interested in contributing anything to the discussion, which is a big change from a year ago – and the conversation continued to flow.

Bryan and I talked about it a little bit later on, and he’s very secure with the knowledge of his journey; he’s adopted, I love him, and he’s safe. He totally accepts and understands all of those things; I am secure in his knowledge of all of those fundamental facts. Right now, he’s not very interested in discussing his past or the details of his adoption – none of us want to do that every day – but there will be times in the future, of course, when he might want to. He’ll have questions about his past, take an interest in the adoption process, and want to learn things to help him understand things he half-remembers. I can respect that; if I were in his position, I’d want to do that, and we all want to understand our place in the world.

It’s a privilege, being a dad, that I never take lightly. Being a single dad / parent is intense; Bryan only has one parent to go to, and if I’m grumpy, Bryan has to deal with me without being able to roll his eyes about me to another parent. But I try to be a good parent, and I try to limit my grumpiness to as few moments as possible … and sometimes I actually succeed. Bryan has good female role models in my mum, his sister, and her mum, and there are other male role models in his life too (my dad, his brother, his siblings’ dad, his teacher); he is cared for, cherished, and both loved and liked.

We are now on half term, and Bryan wants to go to a football camp for three days; he would normally go to a local holiday camp, but it’s closed this half-term due to the bank holidays. I offered a couple of different options – including being bored at home for a couple of days whilst I do some work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he didn’t choose that option, so he is going off to a three-day football camp for five hours each day.

I don’t have any interest in football at all, nor do I have any skills in the game either; I would rather read a book, listen to some music, or write a column for The Isle of Thanet News. I cannot find any interest in the game, but Bryan can – at least on a social level. He loves being active, so he plays football with his friends at lunchtime during the school day, and he plays in a tennis club and dance school on three different occasions each week – all things that don’t come naturally to me. I absolutely support Bryan’s interests, and I take a very genuine interest in his hobbies, but I don’t feel the emotional connection to them that he does.

That’s okay, though, because we have emotional connections over other things; I’ve introduced him to stories, board games, puzzles, and exploring the world around him through nature. That can be my gift to him, as well as a desire to make sure he does the hobbies that he enjoys – I want him to remember that I willingly supported him.

I’m looking forward to a few slow days with Bryan as well over the next week of half-term and the Jubilee weekend; just staying local and spending time with each other is always good fun.

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