Matthew Munson: Marking two very special days

Matthew and Bryan

This week has been a special one, as we’ve celebrated Bryan’s 13th birthday. I’m still reeling from the shock of him being in double figures, let alone him now being a teenager.

He’s spent time over the last couple of weekends with friends and we’re spending Sunday of this weekend with family – by his own request, a simple, fun birthday. He’ll also be spending time with his siblings over the next few weeks, and that completes a perfect birthday for him.

Saturday 16th March is also the anniversary of Bryan moving home – it’s been five years since he first walked in through our front door, his foster carers carrying his luggage close behind, and him going immediately to search out his bedroom and giving it his seal of approval.

Five years. I’ve had the privilege of being his dad for the past five years and when I think about the things we’ve experienced together in that time – a pandemic, lockdowns, strikes, primary school to secondary school – it wasn’t necessarily all how I had planned it. But a lot of those things were out of my control – out of all of our control – and I had to learn quickly that we either just go with it or be driven to distraction.

The first time I ever met Bryan face-to-face was the December before him coming down and I don’t mind admitting that I wept when I walked out. Wept because I was overcome with the sheer joy of being given the responsibility and the pleasure of being his dad. I knew it wasn’t all going to be sweetness and light, but I’ve not regretted my decision to become a dad for one single second.

I think back to my mid-thirties, and I can’t honestly pinpoint the moment where I thought, “Aha, I want to be a dad.” Perhaps it was a more gradual process of realisation, but having gone through my twenties fairly confident that I didn’t want children, it was something of a revelation to realise how much my position had shifted.

Not being in a relationship at the time, I had a decision to make. Did I want until I found that special someone who also wanted kids? No; I had no idea when that was going to happen, so I decided to go it alone – become a dad as a single parent. I know this might seem odd, but it genuinely never occurred to me that this decision was a bit unusual – that not very many men chose to become single parents via adoption. That’s still the case now; it does happen, but not as often as single women deciding to go down the same path.

I’ve had overwhelming positive support over the years, which I’m grateful for. People do occasionally ask (even now), “Where’s mum?” Bryan just shrugs off the question and so I follow his lead on that one; “It’s just the two of us,” I tell them when they ask, and then move on. It means our relationship is an intense one, being just the two of us, and I’ve learnt that I can be embarrassing to a teenager by just breathing, smiling, or putting an arm around his shoulders in public; the cardinal sin, it seems.

Going through the process to be approved as a dad via adoption was a gruelling one. It took months to be checked and interviewed in detail, and I welcomed it; it meant that the social workers knew I was a decent human being (I hope) and had decided I was worthy of being trusted to raise a child.

In the past five years, I’ve seen my son grow into himself. He’s discovered passions for dancing and for music, and is dedicated and loyal to those he cares about. I certainly care about him, very much; he makes me proud and he’s a pretty awesome young man.