Matthew Munson: School days and the pre-teen phase

Matthew and Bryan

I can’t remember my first day at secondary school. In fact, I can’t remember many of my days at Holy Cross (now defunct); I’m not sure why that is, but I’m not particularly upset by my lack of memory. I don’t miss my school days very much, and they clearly didn’t leave many lasting memories – except for the time there was a bomb scare called into the police by a student who shared my first name, so when the headteacher came into the hall and called him to the front, I really wish he hadn’t paused after the boy’s first name. I’ve never felt quite so ill in my life for that fleeting moment.

Schools, of course, have changed in the intervening years; technology is integrated into the school day and at home (I can see what’s going on in Bryan’s day in real time if I wish – poor boy), and schools seem more community-focused and therapeutic, at least from my perspective. Having spent some time in meetings to learn about the St George’s ethos, I was impressed; I’m not a Christian, but the values they hold as true at the school are absolutely first-rate.

Schools have been on mine and Bryan’s minds this week as he has started a new school as a Year 7 student. Thankfully, he has been incredibly excited (and nervous) about the start, but there’s nothing unusual about that; almost every child in existence will have felt similar emotions as they encounter changes to their lives. I have done everything I can to support Bryan with his emotions, and he has been able to distract himself with visits to friends and a lovely couple of days with his siblings.

It’s been a privilege to spend these last six weeks with my son; he is, quite simply, wonderful company, but I have to let go a bit now as he begins the process of growing up. He would quite happily walk all the way home today if he could. I’m not ready to let go all the way yet – I want to give him my support as he continues to learn how to keep himself safe on the way home – but I need to check myself to make sure I’m being fair to him; he deserves that respect, as all children do.

We’re having our flat redecoration finished off next week, so there’s a bit more disturbance for a few days, but it’s going to be worth it when we have a freshly-painted hallway and bathroom to complement the rest of our flat. I can’t wait to have it all done, and it’s going to be entirely worthwhile; it’s taken a while to organise and coordinate, so I’m actually looking forward to the regular routine being reintroduced – I never expected to crave mundanity and regularity quite so much as I have done just lately, but Bryan and I both need it, I suspect.

Bryan and I were talking recently about the fact that he is going to have five years at his secondary school – perhaps even seven if he wants to stay on until he’s 18. That length of time is difficult to visualise sometimes; who knows what we’ll be doing in five or seven years time? I certainly don’t, but I’m excited to watch Bryan growing up even more. I was sad recently that I was saying goodbye to my son’s child phase, but he is now entering his pre-teen phase, and he continues to be a fascinating human being. I know he will always be fascinating, and I’m excited about his future; I don’t know whether he’ll be a shopkeeper, a dancer, or a scientist (all things he has mentioned), but he has every right to choose a path that is right for him, and it’s my responsibility to support him and help him in every way I possibly can.

I never had any pressure on me as a child that I had to follow this career or do that job, and I want Bryan to follow his own path as well. Secondary school will definitely help him make some of those decisions, and so will I.

In the meantime, Bryan has finished his first two days of secondary school, and he’s done himself very proud; he’s engaged, he’s listened, and he’s done his very best. This weekend will be relaxing, calm, and chilled; a perfect antidote.