Matthew Munson: Looking ahead to Christmas and returning to a routine

Matthew and Bryan

Are you prepared for Christmas? Have you written your letter / email to Santa? Are you already planning for Christmas presents, Christmas dinner, and the first king’s speech in seventy years?

Last year, I’d already got every single Christmas present by the end of October, as Bryan had come down with Covid, and when you’re self-isolating, you scramble around for anything to do. As a result, I felt vaguely smug and more than a little bit proud of myself. This year is slightly different; I’ve just started buying some presents, and I’ve got a vague plan for pretty much everyone. My plan is to have everything done by the first week in December, then I can take a breath and start enjoying the panic on everyone else’s face.

It’s not the best thing to do to start talking about Christmas quite so early, but I suspect we will all have had that thought at the back of our head as soon as Halloween was over; “It’s only seven weeks until Christmas.” We then felt a cold shiver of sweat run down our backs as we started to realise quite how much there was to do.

Bryan likes to choose presents for his grandparents personally – quite right, as he’s 11 – and I always wonder where I should be helping him look. Thankfully, there are quite a lot of Christmas markets coming up around Thanet in the next few weeks, so he’s been carefully saving his pocket money, and I will be escorting him round as he carefully weighs up his decisions.

I enjoy all the preparation for seasons like this, as I get to see the joy on the faces of children who get genuinely very excited about it all. But I’m also conscious that we are still only in November, so I won’t dwell on it quite so much right now.

My own family is back in its normal routine now. I’m fortunate in a way, that I work primarily from home, so my commute is the length of time it takes me to get from the kitchen (when I’ve made a drink) to the dining table (or, if I’m feeling particularly lazy, the sofa). Bryan leaves for school, and I have some uninterrupted time to concentrate on other things; I’ve even had a heathen thought of increasing the amount of work I do slightly, as Bryan doesn’t need / want me to pick him up from school anymore. That’s not something I need to worry about straight away, but it’s a thought that is festering away just in case I want to build up a portfolio of different things that interest me.

I don’t know where my own career will be in ten years, but if I think back to the age of 31 (ten years ago), I hadn’t been totally conscious of my desire to become a father, so to think that I would be working part-time so that I could be a dad (and a single dad to boot) would have been hard to imagine to that version of myself. It’s funny how we have different versions of our identity as we grow up; would someone who knew me at 20 recognise me now, and would someone who knows me know recognise me at 60? Perhaps – I hope there’s a common thread that defines who I am throughout my life, but experiences do shape you and help you grow up – they certainly have in my case, and I like to think (I hope) that I’m a better person for it.

The “me” at 20 would not have been a very good father, for instance. I’m not saying I’m a perfect father now, but I’m better because of the experiences I’ve had in my own life that – I hope – have made me more empathetic. I’m still learning now, of course, and I hope I never stop. If I fail to keep learning, then have a word with me, would you?

Bryan and I went for dinner this Sunday at Toby Carvery just for the hell of it, and we had a little stroll home afterwards. It might have been a bit damp in places, but a lovely stroll with my son on a Sunday afternoon was a pleasant way to end the weekend. I hope your weekend was just as lovely.