Matthew Munson: Father’s Day and the privilege of being a dad

Matthew and Bryan
Matthew and Bryan

In case you hadn’t heard, it’s Father’s Day today. If by some awful confluence of events you have managed to forget, or somehow not even notice, and you think, “Oh bother, I should have got something,” then consider this your friendly reminder. It’s not too late. Or maybe it is. Just pick up the phone in that case.

It’s a two-way street for me, as it has been for the past five years. My dad is in the age bracket now that the word “esteemed”, or even “very experienced”, would often prefix any introduction. We’re celebrating Father’s Day for him (happy Father’s Day, Dad), and I am also a dad, so my son has (I am led to understand) conspired with my parents to get me a little something. Which is lovely, but the privilege of being a parent is genuinely enough – although I suspect I know what my present might be, and I definitely could do with a new water bottle. If I don’t get it for Father’s Day, my birthday is on Tuesday, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for it then.

But seriously, being a dad changed my outlook on life in ways I couldn’t ever have imagined. I didn’t know Bryan from birth, but I first met this joyous human being when he was seven, and he came home when he was eight. In that time, we have lived through a global pandemic, a cost of living crisis … well, if I listed everything, that would take up the rest of the column.

But we have also become a family, and Bryan’s family grew; he now has his grandparents and his dad as well as his siblings. He also has a group of friends at school, and a passion for dance that I continue to respect and admire. Bryan made me a father, and he may not realise how much that has meant to me. But that’s okay, because I know.

I can’t remember exactly when I decided that I wanted to become a dad, but during my twenties, any sort of parental responsibility was as far from my mind as it’s possible to be. It must have been a gradual process, as I don’t recall a Damascene flash of light that woke me up in the middle of the night and made me think, “Aha, I want to be a dad now! Right, let’s snap to it.”

But the process did happen, and I’m glad it did. I went with Barnardo’s as the agency who would help me become an adoptive parent, as I liked their ethos and values. I’m glad I did, as the support I had from them was excellent, and there were a few points before I became a dad that I needed that professional advice.

There was a lot of travel involved, both for training with Barnardos and when I connected with Bryan; he didn’t live nearby, so I made the trek several times. I was glad to, as it meant I got to see the child who was going to become my son, and I got to connect with his foster carers as well.

I’ve worked part-time for the last five years, and that’s been the best option for both of us. I wanted to be a hands-on dad as much as I possibly could (and for as long as Bryan would let me as he grew up), and I haven’t missed working full-time. I would like to go back to full-time work in the future, when Bryan is grown up, but I don’t want to miss these years with my son. I’m thankful my own dad never decided to work full-time in London newspapers; instead, we got to live by the sea, surrounded by family I felt safe with and loved by. That’s what I want for my own son, and I’m glad I – and my wider family – can give that to him.

We’re going to be lunching today at Quex’s Barn in Birchington (maybe we already have by the time you read this, not that I suppose the precise timings matter!), and on my birthday, I’ll be celebrating by working, then taking Bryan down to his dance lesson. It’s a good life.

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