I got to spend a bit more time with Bryan this week due to the school strikes.
On Thursday, the Munson Academy – which operated during the pandemic – reopened its doors for the day. When Bryan was first home schooled during the early days of Covid-19 becoming an ever-present companion in all our news briefings, I was rather anxious about how to do this home learning stuff; was I going to get it massively wrong and send Bryan back to school without the skills he needed?
I needn’t have worried, of course; there were a few false starts, I’ll admit, and we were occasionally a bit anxious, tetchy, and worried about how we were going to organise ourselves. I’d only been a dad for a year at that point, so I was still learning how to be a parent, but thankfully, we learnt to be patient with each other and found our rhythm. I originally tried to replicate a school timetable at home, but then I introduced themes and week-long topics, and then we were cooking.
So, when we learnt that students would be home this Thursday, I knew that I would cope a lot more easily – and I hoped Bryan would as well. He ended up entirely relaxed about it; we’ve both been in this situation before, so it wasn’t like we didn’t know what to expect. I start us off at the normal time, even getting up at exactly the same time as a normal school day – although neither of us would prefer that.
I work part-time, so it’s not the end of the world in terms of being there for Bryan, but he’s a little bit more independent now, he doesn’t need me directing him in the same way as 2020. I actually managed to work for a while in the morning without any issue; I was more relaxed because I knew Bryan had a focus, and he could share what he was doing with me when he was ready without worrying that he was interrupting. It felt nice on Thursday morning, if I’m truthful.
I like working. I would contentedly work a lot more hours before I was a dad, because I didn’t have any other particular responsibilities – it was nice when I got to make a difference, and also have some different hobbies. But becoming a dad changed that; my son is a genuine pleasure to be around, and I love spending time with him. He will pull away to a degree as he goes through secondary school; that process has already started in small ways, to tell the truth, and it’s right and healthy that he does that as he explores friendships. But he is also willing to spend time with me, and I’m so very grateful – our weekends are precious, whether we’re by ourselves or with other people.
In my twenties, I could never imagine being a father; the thought genuinely never crossed my mind, and I was undoubtedly too focused on work and my own opportunities to be able to do the role justice. I’m by no means perfect now that I’m twenty years older (I’m self-aware enough to admit that), but I at least try and admit my strengths and weaknesses and show Bryan that it’s entirely healthy to be a human being who embraces their abilities and doesn’t try to be someone they’re not.
I was never pressured to go into any particular career when I was growing up; my dad was a journalist and my mum worked in retail. There was a time when I thought I would be a journalist – but then realised that didn’t work for me and, after doing two years of Saturday work in a supermarket, I had decided that retail work was more definitely not for me.
I always resolved to raise Bryan in the same way; he has no expectations to carry from me or anyone else in the family, and he can embrace whatever career he wants – or multiple careers. I’ve had more jobs than I care to remember; when I last looked at my CV, I really had forgotten a couple of the jobs I’d had (I spent a year as a case worker for Kent Police once upon a time, if you can believe that – well, even if you can’t believe that, it still happened, but it most definitely wasn’t the job that was going to define my career). I love talking to people who have had a variety of roles and opportunities in their lives – and that can happen even if they have had one or two employers throughout their working life.
By continuing to work part-time, and trying to balance a small career around being a dad, I’m hopefully showing Bryan that it’s possible to do both, and I’m glad I’ve found a balance now