Matthew Munson: Adoption, walking and suffering from man flu

Bryan and Matthew

I am currently recovering from a severe bout of man flu (some might call it a cold, but they would be wrong), but I don’t like talking about it, no matter what my family might say.

Bryan passed it on after he caught the cold first (probably from school); I knew immediately that I, too, would suffer this terrible plague, and here I am, soldiering on – I’m brave, I know.

You know you’re middle-aged (at 41, there is no other way of describing my chronological state) when illnesses, even something like the common cold / man flu, take far longer to recover from. When Bryan had covid, he didn’t have a single symptom and never showed he was even the slightest bit affected from this disease that had locked us down for a long time. I didn’t catch covid, but my symptoms from this cold have left me washed out. Children, we keep saying, are resilient, and that much is true; they bounce back so often.

Physical health might be at the forefront of my mind, but that’s not the only thing that’s happened this week. I’m adjusting to being the father of a 12 year old son – he’s already told me off twice for forgetting and calling him “11” – and having been a father now for four years. I was so genuinely touched by some messages I received off the back of last week’s column about it being Bryan’s four year anniversary of living at home; thank you for being so kind.

Adoption doesn’t feature as a big conversation in our home anymore; I was talking about it briefly to a fellow parent this week, and someone else did a double-take – they didn’t realise that Bryan was adopted; not because we had deliberately kept it from her, but by now, we assume people know and that we don’t have to “out” ourselves as a family who have formed through that route.

People are still occasionally surprised by me being a single father, someone who has chosen to be a solo parent – it’s not quite as common, from what I remember of conversations back when I was first going through the application process, so people don’t always know what to say. I’ve only ever experienced a couple of negative responses, and the overwhelming majority of people have been supportive and thoughtful – sometimes asking questions, which I never mind; if it’s something I can’t (or don’t want to) answer, then I’m honest about that too. Bryan has a lot of positive role models in his life; I like to think that I’m one, as is his granddad – and he has positive female role models like his nan, his sister, and his sister’s mum, all of whom are just as important.

Because although I’m a single parent, and therefore a lot of responsibility falls to me (quite rightly), Bryan and I have a close-knit circle around us; his grandparents / my parents, his siblings and their parents, and we’re gradually working on building up our friendship circles as Bryan moves into slightly more independent periods of his life.

I’m going to be getting back into walking soon – I’ve even set up a walking group on Facebook called (not surprisingly) the Thanet Walking Group, so I can meet other local people interested in walking.

My parents are happy to look after Bryan for an evening a week so I can get in a walk then, and I’m already ambitious to do another walking marathon in the next couple of years. I know I can do this, because ‘I’ve done it before – and although it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with a little niche of free time that I was going to carve out, walking as a social activity was something that totally made sense.

There were a lot of different activities out there, from dancing to piano lessons to book clubs to … well, you name it, there’s probably a niche interest group for it. But I couldn’t find a group for walkers, and I kept coming back to that in my head; it was something I had loved doing for years, and I did about fourteen marathons in the end – and as soon as I thought about it, I knew that it had to be this hobby that I explored.

Bryan has even agreed to do the occasional walk with me as well, but I suspect that I won’t be able to do them too early in the day. So thank you for the suggestions of hobbies, but I’ve found my hobby I want to stick to for a while, so after Easter, keep an eye out for me pounding the streets of Thanet once again.