Matthew Munson: A new game of ‘spot the Christmas tree’

Matthew and Bryan

It’s 36 days until Christmas, and I’m astounded that Christmas trees are appearing in windows already. I’m not in any way eager to put up our decorations, and Bryan and I play “Spot the tree” as we head down to his dance lessons during the week. It’s getting more and more every day.

I’ve agreed with Bryan that we’ll put our decorations up a couple of weeks before Christmas, and that’ll suit us fine. He seems to have remembered a promise I (foolishly) made months ago, that he could open a present on Decorations Day. That was silly of me. Perhaps I’ll wait until Christmas Eve.

That said, I’ve already got Christmas presents organised. Being a single dad, I need to make sure I’ve got everything planned out and ready a few weeks in advance so I can do the right lists, get the wrapping done, and everything else besides. I may be the parent of a 12 year old now, but I still want to make sure it’s a happy time – for both of us and the rest of our family. Most of us are never too old for a family Christmas.

We live about ten minutes from my parents – Bryan’s grandparents – and I really hoped they would develop a bond as strong as mine was with all my grandparents. I needn’t have worried, as they bonded almost at once, and that was brilliant to watch. When I go to university, Bryan will sometimes pop in and see his grandparents for a little while until I get home, which works well for all of us.

I knew three of my grandparents (one of my grandfathers died 15 years before I was born), and I adored all of them. I have happy memories from all three; my maternal nan, who used a wheelchair, was a kind, generous woman, and the same can absolutely be said of my paternal nan. My paternal granddad was content with a quiet life watching his sport, but he loved his family first and foremost. All three had passed away by the time I was 25, but I like to think – I hope – I’m a better person because of them being in my life.

I love being a dad, I genuinely do, but if you had asked the 25-year-old me if he ever wanted to become a parent, he would have looked at you as if you were utterly mad and speaking a rare dialect of Klingon. I was certainly not interested in becoming a parent until into my thirties, and I wish I knew what changed my mind. Perhaps it wasn’t one particular thing, but something did; I was willing to up-end my life in order to have a child.

I enjoyed work, and liked being full-time, but part-time works for me right now so I can be available for my son – and have a bit of time to study as well. It’s a fine balancing act, which means I have to be pretty organised in order to fit it all in. Sometimes, I get tired and a bit grumpy, but I try and be self-aware enough to recognise when that’s happening and stop myself. But I relish the opportunity to raise a child and be a family. I’m a flawed human being like we all are, but I never forget what a privilege it is to be a parent.

Talking of university, as I momentarily was, I’m just finishing off a couple of creative portfolios for my modules. It’s been a lovely experience, and reinvigorated my love of different styles of writing; short stories, for example, and even short forms of fiction. I’m yet to work on poetry in any great detail, and I’m a bit nervous about that. Poetry is not within my comfort zone, and I don’t think I’ve ever been any good at it – but, as I keep telling myself, the point of going to university is to push myself. Writing drama is something I’ll be doing later in the course as well, and again, that’s a big challenge. But I do accept that I’ve already been given some ideas for new stories that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t started the course, so who am I to turn down an opportunity to try new things? If one module’s not for me, that’s okay – the next one very likely will be.

Learning even at 42 is exciting, and my brain is fizzing with ideas. It’s not a bad start to my degree!