Matthew Munson: A busy summer ahead

A busy summer for Bryan

Summer is upon us. My own personal weatherman, Bryan Munson, tells me that summer began on 21st June, and it’s going to be a busy one this year. Bryan has embraced his extrovert nature and is doing a school show and a performance with his dance school. July will mostly involve me being his courier to and from his practice sessions and shows, and I never once complain.

I’m doing a bit of a redesign of our home at the moment; getting the flat redecorated and picking out some new bits of furniture. Bryan is quite excited about the idea of his bedroom being turned into a teenager’s dream – a bigger desk, new wardrobe, and so on. He no longer wants the bed sets of old, but new ones that better reflect him growing up – fewer pictures and more “teenager styles”.

Bryan is going through something of a growth spurt right now. His feet are now size 9 and I’m obsessively monitoring his trouser lengths in case they turn into ankle biters. I’m not particularly tall – 5 foot six and a half is my full height – and Bryan is rapidly catching up with me. His genetic ancestry tells me that Bryan will be tall, and I’ve learnt to accept that.

So often, when people don’t realise that Bryan is adopted, I’m told that he and I look alike. It’s true, although I am pasty white and he has beautiful olive skin, but of course we don’t share any genes. Bryan’s ancestry is European, and I tell him that my “gift” to him was UK citizenship. It’s the least I can do when I didn’t get to be his dad from birth.

Bryan doesn’t often ask questions about his past – he lived through it, after all – but we both acknowledge that he does have a past before he became a Munson. People are often very respectful about his past; it’s something we keep very private to him and his siblings, because it’s their story to tell (or not) as they grow up. I’m delighted to see how Bryan has embraced his family in its own unique way; his siblings have a loving family as well, and they have regular opportunities to spend time together (I’ve also had the opportunity to become friends with their mum, which has helped me so much).

I took Bryan to the optician this week, and she asked me the usual questions about eye and general health. There weren’t any issues in my genetic history, but half-way through the chat, I had to pause, realising that the optician needed to know a bit more information than just about my own genes, so quickly changed tack. Bryan was entirely unperturbed, as was I; it’s entirely normal in our own minds to think about life in this way, and for Bryan to love people who are important to him and keep him safe.

Occasionally I’m asked about adoption, by people who are considering it for themselves. I never give a definitive answer, as everyone is different; some people will definitely find that it’s the best thing they could ever have done (like me) and others will, for whatever reason, deduce that adoption isn’t the right thing for them. I just knew in my gut that it was the right thing to do, and I’ve never once regretted it.

When you adopt, you have to accept that there are moments in your child’s life that you haven’t been there for. I didn’t get to see Bryan’s first steps, first word, or when he learned how to ride a bike. I wondered if that would bother me – I can hold onto things more than I should sometimes – but it doesn’t very much. In the three years I’ve been a dad so far, I’ve experienced my own “firsts” with my son – his first birthday, our first Father’s Day, Christmas, our first national pandemic, and so on. It’s certainly been eventful, that much is certain, and I don’t at all regret it. Bryan got the security of a forever home, where he could settle, relax, and start thinking about his future. I got to be the dad of a rather cool young child … no, strike that. A rather cool pre-teen. Gulp.