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THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: One happy birthday bunch


Antoinette Connell

THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: One happy birthday bunch

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It so happens that my offspring and her school chum are marking a rather special teenage milestone this week. Her schoolmate, generous child that she is, invited my daughter to join her for a double celebration beach-house style. I, having no such luxury plans, gladly gave permission and a modest contribution.
Remember, I am not one for lavish affairs for no real reason. To this day my daughter reminds me that a few years after having sat the Common Entrance and achieving quite decent results I still am to reward her. I thought her achievement was reward in itself.
But having not done it then, it would be a shame and a departure to reward her now with fireworks, parade or confetti for merely achieving another year, a feat matched by billions annually.
For this event I imagined simply dropping off my daughter and returning at the prescribed time. I think she imagined the same; a day without mother, or her birth-giver as she has taken to calling me, hovering around and nit-picking.
However, at the St Peter beach house I ran into a former schoolmate and we barely recognized each other. I should explain that I’m using the term schoolmate in its most loose sense as I was a few years ahead of her and our paths hardly crossed.
But – God bless that northern hospitality! – that didn’t stop the Scott family from graciously inviting me to stay since I was the mother of one of the birthday girls. Hurray! I thought: now I can spy . . . sorry, keep an eye on these eight or nine teenagers frolicking at the beach.
I soon found out that there was no need for my secret worries.
Too often parents cut loose their young ones at mass events without fully considering their welfare or that of the people they are bound to come into contact with. Or they leave too many of them without enough supervision, which can lead to no good.
Sometimes I gasp when I see pictures of children of tender primary school age or those that have just entered secondary school at some of these very adult fetes. To me that is a danger parents inflict on children and an unnecessary worry that they impose upon themselves.
This was not the case over the weekend.
Grandparents, parents, aunties and godmother were present and accounted for, so even when I feared the beach romp there were enough adult eyes around to ensure the children’s safety.
Grandpa, a strong swimmer, escorted the girls individually on the kayak; grandma made sure the plates were constantly topped up and the aunties saw that the stove was always fired up.
I made sure that all this hospitality was not wasted by enjoying every moment of it because, you know, I wouldn’t want anyone to feel offended.
The beautiful thing was that the young adults got along well with the older folk – no clashes or resentment reported. You could not want for a more mannerly bunch.
Later, as I watched the girls pummelling each other with water balloons and taking all sorts of crazy pictures, I thought about the lost innocence of some other teenagers, allowed to grow up too soon. As their laughter blended and got lost in the crashing waves, I reflected on how too early some teenagers take on responsibilities designed for someone older and life becomes less enjoyable.
Parents, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with shielding your children throughout their teenage years; it will make for a better life.
The disappearing sun on the horizon brought an end to an idyllic day but not the memories I had so unwittingly captured in my mind.
To Ya-Ya and Ti-Ti, whose names I have changed so they won’t suffer too much embarrassment, happy birthday!
• Antoinette Connell is the DAILY NATION Editor.

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