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Benn building a legacy

Natanga Smith

Benn building a legacy

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“Like father, like son” the saying goes. Or let’s go with “the apple doesn’t fall from the tree”. While they are clichés, they aptly describe Don Benn, 39, and son Darien, ten.
Don is operations manager at West Indies Rum Distillery and is active in the sports arena as a trophy-winning squash player – a trait that has passed down to his son who is also active in the sport.
Dad can be found on Saturdays at either a squash tournament with Darien or going kite-flying, playing football or on the beach.
“We are outdoor people,” he said laughing, adding they also like table tennis, playing cards, dominoes and video games, reading and music (guitar and piano).
“It is nice that he has developed a love for the same things (especially sports) so invariably time for me normally means time with him.”
A student at St Cyprian’s, Darien has a set routine that works well for his parents and Don said having his wife share the responsibilities makes it easier “so the load doesn’t fall on one person. Making time for family is important to both of us so we always plan our day around what is needed for our son. I would also work early some mornings so that I can spend time with family in the evening.”
Don also tries to eat breakfast with the family so that he can engage Darien in conversation before his mum drives him to school.
“My wife does more of the chauffeur work as she also picks him up after school. I then take over to bring him to his after-school activities such as guitar, judo, squash or lessons.”
Weekend times are family time, and after the morning and early afternoon tasks of homework, judo and squash are out the way, it’s on to various activities.
“It’s been a journey . . . seeing how our son has grown and developed over the last ten years.  I have been there at every stage and milestone from birth until his recent tenth birthday (May 20).  He is an active, spirited, fun-loving child who always wants to do his best in his endeavours and is not afraid of a new challenge.  Seeing the joy in his eyes when he achieves something and is justifiably proud of his accomplishments is very thrilling and rewarding.”
That said, however, Don is aware he cannot be there every step of the way with Darien and realises that he has to let him learn from his own mistakes.
“Children can have a mind of their own and despite your best advice would still want to do it their way without necessarily seeing the risks that can be involved.  However, sometimes they learn best from their mistakes and in the process can determine an even better way to accomplish the activity. For the parent it is understanding that one of your roles is to inform and guide but you will not always be able to do for the child. They [children] have to experience disappointment and pain at some point in their growth.”
Don said since becoming a parent he has learnt to be more patient and be aware of his actions as “children have a knack for pointing out things that you are not aware of. They are influenced more by actions and deeds rather than words.”
“We are still adjusting to Darien becoming more independent and being able to make decisions for himself.  Allowing him to do things that may be considered ‘dangerous’ – cutting cheese, pressing clothes, cooking (all under supervision).   Recognising that he is no longer a baby that needs protection but rather a young boy that is very capable of doing things for himself.”
Dad remembers vividly Darien’s first day at Paredos at age two: “He cried bitterly when we handed him over to the auntie at the door. But I’m hoping to replace it with better memories of him with his first day in secondary school and the day he gets his licence to drive.”
Don says his greatest fear is “not being able to always live up to the expectations of the child. They see parents as infallible (almost like superheroes)”.
For Don, family is important, with his parents Haynesley and Margery Benn about to celebrate 40 years of marriage.
“Families that are close and that stay together offer the children the best opportunity to grown, develop and excel.  My parents are about to celebrate their 40th anniversary and have always impressed upon me that although it will not always be plain sailing, you have stay together and achieve together as a family with hard work, dedication and a willingness to compromise for the good of the family.”
Don is a hands-on dad and says that he has instilled values in his son that were passed down by his dad and says he doesn’t have to discipline Darien, who he allows the freedom to be expressive without being disrespectful: “‘But Daddy’ is his favourite start to a sentence.  He is still developing his own personality that will be very different from mine or his mum’s.”