Matthew Munson: Sports Day fun and feeling reflective

Matthew and Bryan

Sports Days are wonderful things, as long as I’m not asked to participate. I have as much athletic ability as a severely asthmatic sloth that is known amongst its friends as particularly lazy. My son, on the other hand, doesn’t stop moving, so he adores sports day.

The last one I was able to attend was three years ago, so it was so nice to be able to go to this one; I was a bit excited, I don’t mind admitting. My parents came along as well – they wanted to watch their grandson in action; I couldn’t have kept them away with a twenty-mile exclusion zone – and Bryan was delighted to have his family there.

This year, he was a bit too cool to let me hug him much; I was allowed to give him a brief hug at the end when he was sure not too many of his friends were watching. He’s 11; I’m not offended. In fact, I’m glad he can feel confident that I’m not to get cross or offended by him acting like a perfectly normal almost-teenager.

Being a father brings a weight of expectations; how do I teach Bryan good values? How do I make it up to Bryan when I get cross or stressed? I am by no means perfect, but I do want to set a good example to Bryan; I made a vow to myself when he first came home that I would try my best to admit when I had made a mistake and do something about it. I need Bryan to understand what it’s like to keep striving to learn and get better.

I’m starting to subtly make him think about our values more; in September he goes to a new school, he’ll be travelling to and from school by himself (or with friends) a lot more. I want to make sure he feels confident doing the travelling, and also knowing what a good friend looks like – the more time he spends with people who share his values, and can be supportive and kind and funny, the more he will enjoy life and have fun at school.

But I’m raising a child who is naturally kind; he helped out at the sports day for the younger children, and a friend took a few short videos of him as he took part and interacted with the younger students. I was thrilled; I got to see him being … himself. It reminded me that he is consistent, that he’s not a different person when he’s with other people. I knew that already, of course, but it was lovely to be reminded of it.

Times they are a-changing. I find myself, I think, in a reflective mood. The Bryan of 8 years old (as he was when he first came home) was looking to find his place in the world after two loving years in foster care and a lot of uncertainty before that. He’s found that certainty, and if I can be one of his rocks, then that makes me happy. I will never be his only one – he has two loving grandparents, two siblings and their parents, friends, and teachers he truly respects – and that makes me happy too. It means he’s safe in his community, and that means he can stretch his wings.

Adopting Bryan was the best thing I have ever done; genuinely, I mean that. When I was first approved as a dad by the adoption agency I was with, I didn’t know how long it would take. When I saw the profile on Bryan – just a few lines about his personality and his background – there was just something about him that made me think; “I’d love to be your dad.” I’ve never regretted that decision, not once, and the last three and a bit years have flown by – there’s still a lot of “stuff” to come in the future (puberty, relationships, exams?), but I’ll always be there to help him through it.

I think I realise now why I’m feeling a bit reflective; change makes you reflect. The now-familiar routine of the last three years is coming to an end, and something else will take its place – a new school, a new routine – that we will deal with together … until he decides that he wants to go to the bus stop by himself. When that happens, you’ll find me having a minor breakdown in the corner. Then I’ll get over it and get back to cheering him on.