Matthew Munson: Parents’ evening and adoption research

Matthew and Bryan

When I was a student, some 30 years ago, parents’ evenings were always something that my mum and dad had to think about, I never worried about them.

Even PE, which was undoubtedly my least favourite subject, was made bearable by a PE teacher who was kind. In the parents’ evenings, he made sure that he had a kind and positive word to say about me despite my total lack of ability, skill, athleticism … I could go on.

Some decades on, it’s now my turn to attend parents’ evenings. Taking on an adult responsibility like that is actually really lovely; I get to hear about my son’s progress, meet the teachers who he always talks about, and pick up on anything that I can help him with at home.

Some of the teachers are younger than me by quite a margin, and some are in the same sort of age range as me. I find myself wondering what I should call the teachers; “Mr or Mrs So-And-So”?” “Dave?” Using surnames feels awkward to me when it’s two adults talking, but I understand they need to present a certain formality to the students. I avoided the awkwardness in my head by never using their names; instead using a jolly “hello!” when walking into their classrooms. Sorted.

All went well, of course, I was very proud of my son (who is now very nearly as tall as me). The feedback was fair, balanced, and insightful; his teachers seemed to really understand him and knew what made him tick, which reassured me that he was at the right school. Brilliant stuff, and he got a big hug when he got home (which, let me tell you, he was very happy about).

I’ve finished university for this academic year now, which feels strange to say. But I don’t have to go back until October. I ‘ll undoubtedly pop back in before then, to use the library and other facilities the university has to offer, but it’s nice to have some time to work on other projects for a while – my writing in particular. My son’s dance classes have also taken on a life of their own as they start preparing for a dance show, so that’s taking up more time. Not that I mind; I’m a passionate supporter of hobbies and interests, and if that’s what he wants to do, then who am I to argue?

I’ve had the opportunity recently to take part in a couple of research projects talking about adoption, looking particularly at the process adults have to go through in preparation to become a parent.

Talking to a researcher helped me remember a lot of things I’d forgotten in the last five years. It’s funny to think that we’ve not had any social worker involvement in the past five years, whereas in the two years preceding that, I was well-used to meetings, assessments, more meetings, and more assessments. All very important, and interesting to reflect on at a distance – I realised just how much of a normal family we had become so quickly, and how our normal (single dad and his son) became just … well, normal.

Being a dad is genuinely the biggest privilege of my life. To be able to raise a child and form a bond with him is something that delights me on a daily basis. I’m not perfect, that much is certain, but I’m always trying to do better, and my relationship with my son is one I’m particularly proud of.

I’m so grateful when people say that they’ve read my columns when I’m out and about, and a huge thank you to everyone who continues reading. Now, you’ll have to excuse me; we need to leave for one of Bryan’s dance rehearsals in a few minutes, and Bryan is waiting patiently for me to finish this so we can go. Far be it for me to keep him waiting …

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