Matthew Munson: Back to school, work and dancing

Matthew and Bryan

The holidays have come to an end. I have a complicated relationship with seasonal holidays. I thoroughly love spending time with Bryan and finding nice things to do, whether they are small moments at home, going out somewhere, or the occasional trip further afield. They’re lovely and they’re moments I know I’ll treasure forever.

But my leave only takes me so far. I’m very fortunate in that I only work part-time, and have got a lot of flexibility with my hours as well as with my writing. So during those holidays when I have to work, I can compress my hours into fewer, but longer, days, and still get to have time with Bryan.

On the days when I’m working, however, the question in my head is – what can Bryan do? There’s a holiday camp near to where we live that he thoroughly enjoys going to, and I can focus on work while not feeling guilty that he’s bored or doing something he doesn’t really want to do.

When he first came home, I had eight months paternity leave, which in so many ways was an amazing experience. We got to really get to know each other in those first eight months. I didn’t have to balance work and school drop-offs and pick-ups, and it was a genuine joy to really focus on our relationship as it slowly built up. Going back to work after all that time off was hard, but it was also important – I missed adult company and conversation, as much as I also enjoyed being with my son. As it turned out, we went into lock-down five months after I went back to work, so that wasn’t particularly well-timed on my part, but who could have foreseen that coming? That’s not a political point, I promise.

It’s hard for all families, balancing work and family life. My parents only had a certain amount of holiday to take, and while my mum worked part-time, my dad was full-time, so my grand-parents and I spent a lot of time together during the holidays when my parents needed to work. Bryan spends time with his grandparents now; slightly less so during the holidays than before, as he wants to go more to camp (nothing against his grandparents, but he’s 13 and has bundles more energy than me, even when I was 13). But he still gets that opportunity to spend time with his extended family, and I’m lucky to have that extra support.

I had the first week of the Easter holidays off, and we just pottered. It was lovely to do little bits and pieces, including going to an event marking International Roma Day (which was important to Bryan and, therefore, important to me) at the lovely Cliftonville Cultural Centre. In a previous life, it had been a synagogue, but had closed down in 2017. It has since been lovingly restored, and I ended up having a chat with a couple of the team. They couldn’t have been more committed to making it a vibrant place for all sorts of different events and groups, and we were made to feel very welcome.

And now the routine comes back to life. School, work, and Bryan’s dancing – this term marks a show that his dance school will be putting together (over in Canterbury, as their previous home at the Winter Gardens isn’t available now, sadly – such a loss). There’s a lot of excitement about that in Casa de Munson, as you might imagine, and I’ll be on duty making sure he gets to where he needs to be for all his rehearsals and shows. I’m both a dad AND a PA, but when it’s something your child is passionate about, how could you refuse? I have absolutely no dancing talent whatsoever, despite trying to dance at my 21st birthday party; that was my first and last effort, and it’ll rightly never happen again. I prefer a sedate life, although my son refuses to allow that to happen. Long may it continue.