I remember my school days very sparingly; there are some individual memories, but very few and far between. I know people who remember such incredible detail about their school days, but I’m certainly not amongst them.
I find myself wondering how much Bryan will remember of his own school days; there’s so much to choose from, of course. He was at a school up north until half-way through year 3, and then he came down to the south and began his life at Bromstone – interspersed with time at the Munson Academy when lockdown hit. They have done him proud, and this last term – which (gulp) ends in just a couple of weeks – has been packed with so much activity that I’ve had to have a long list to keep track of everything; sports day, a school show on his last week, cycle proficiency (what is now called Bikeability) … it’s a bewildering (and lovely) way to spend the end of his primary school journey.
I’m not sure if it’s fully sunk in that he’s leaving so soon. He’s absolutely ready to go to secondary school, mentally and emotionally, and the recent transition day he had was really helpful; he has been reassured that his new school is going to be just what he needs – kind, loving, strong boundaries, and inspiring. But he has so much to occupy himself with over the next few weeks, and I think that will help settle and soothe his natural excitement and nerves.
He also had a dance show coming up outside of school; he goes to a local dance school, Masque, and they’re putting on a show at the Winter Gardens just before it closes down. This will be Bryan’s first time on a big stage like this, and he’s buzzing with excitement and energy over that as well. I’m just consulting the list that I’ve written to make sure I know where he needs to be every day.
One thing I’ve noticed, as he continues to feel secure and comfortable in himself, is that he doesn’t rely on me quite as much as he used to for entertainment. He still wants to spend time with me, which is a privilege, but he doesn’t cling quite as much to my side now as compared to three years ago. I’m writing this week’s column on Saturday morning while Bryan has a rehearsal for his dance show. In the past, he would have stuck solidly to my side until it was time to go in; now, he bounces off to watch the class before they finish their routine, and I’ve just watched him walk out into the waiting area (where I am), throw something into the bin, and wave vaguely at me before disappearing back into the studios. Plus la change.
I have to adjust to that change, of course; he is indeed growing up, and it’s lovely to see him getting more confident. He shouldn’t need to rely solely on his dad; as he builds up a network of people with good values (hopefully I’m teaching him right), then I can be more confident in his ability to look after himself and (I always hope) choose good, healthy relationships of all stripes; friendships, partners, work colleagues, and so on.
That said, I’m still his dad, and I love spending time with him – he’s an amazing young man (I can’t properly say child any more). He’s 11, has size 9 adult shoes, and is 4 foot 11. By no stretch of the imagination am I a dad to a little boy any more, and that makes me both emotional and happy – I miss the wonderment of the little boy that he once was, but he is still full of wonder at 11.
I do think about the highs and lows of the past three years, but I’m also excited about the future for him – like every child, he has a lot of potential, and I want him to realise that potential in any way he chooses. I never had a single jot of pressure on me as a child to conform to a particular career path or personality type – that’s a big thing I can compliment my parents on – and Bryan deserves the same level of support. All children do; I am always confused when people say that their child is going to be what they want them to be, and that’s befuddling to me; they need to be what they want to be, as they have every right to explore their own identities.
Bryan is most certainly doing that; children who have been adopted (or, indeed, who are still in care) deserve the same level of opportunity that any other child deserves. Bryan will always “own” his adoption, as it’s something that is a positive in his life, and there are role models like James O’Brien, Stewart Lee, and Kate Adie who are also adopted. No matter Bryan’s start, the most important thing he deserves is love, and the people around him love him so very much.