First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Parenting 101: Keep your eye on the (tennis) ball and d...

Defend Truth


Parenting 101: Keep your eye on the (tennis) ball and don’t be an idiot – be a square


Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a Brown Woman in a White South Africa. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

Last Sunday we took our kid to the beautiful Kommetjie boardwalk. He adores outside experiences. But on that day, our 19-month-old son side-eyed us so hard I was worried his eyes would stick at 10 past 2 forever.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

I remember loving the outdoors as a kid. Always climbing peach trees, jumping fences to fetch a ball that I kicked over to the neighbour’s yard, tetanus shots after barbed wire pierced through my skin, scratches and scarring all over my face from hiding in thorny bushes, and socks full of blackjacks.

I couldn’t have been more than five years old when I rode my scooter up and down the road with friends, and I continued to play in the street far into my adolescence.

But while I remember all my treks outside, I also fondly remember my first time watching television (yes, it was Wimbledon) – behaviour that parents are vehemently instructed to avoid for as long as they can when they have children. And I get it. Why raise a square-eyed monster when you can raise a feral bushbaby instead?

My wife and I leaned on the same new-fangled rules and regulations when we became parents. We wanted to raise a kid who reads instead of scrolls, who prefers riding the waves of the ocean instead of channel-surfing and whose imagination is harnessed instead of heavily influenced by the makings of a pig named Peppa who is really, really rude and quite mean.

But it took approximately 99 days before this mentality took a back seat and the “evil” square moved to the front. Our toddler has no idea who Peppa Pig is, he has never met the Lion King and he is yet to venture into the world of Dora the Explorer. But he is well acquainted with the sheer magic that is the ATP and WTA tennis tour, as well as all Grand Slam tournaments, which is how the goggle-boxing started.

I have the tennis on constantly and he seamlessly became exposed to watching tennis as much as I do. So now, at six in the morning while I feed him his porridge while catching up on the highlight reel of the day before, he catches up with me.

If the tennis isn’t on, he points to my computer and asks for it, and I have zero guilt about it. I am in fact extremely proud of the fact that he loves it. Nothing makes my heart skip a beat faster than when he gets home from daycare and sits in my lap while we share a snack, and we fix our eyes on the to and fro of a yellow ball. It’s cosy and comforting and bonding and very lovely.

But last week one of the most Karen posts I have ever seen went viral on Instagram. In it, a blonde, irritatingly self-confident woman is standing in a forest while clutching the youngest of three children in her one arm and holding up a board in the other arm that reads: “Into the woods we go because kids won’t remember their best day of television.” First of all, Karen, no one goes hiking with a handheld blackboard and second, your message is bullshit.

Last Sunday we took our kid to the beautiful Kommetjie boardwalk. He adores outside experiences. But on that day, our 19-month-old son side-eyed us so hard I was worried his eyes would stick at 10 past 2 forever. We spent 30 minutes there before heading home because we literally felt like we were punishing him. As soon as we parked, his face lit up like MTV in the ’90s. And as soon as we entered the door, guess what he asked for? A bowl of blueberries and the “ten”, as he refers to the best sport in the world. And nothing made him happier that day than just chilling on the couch with his mammas watching Wimbledon.

My wife and I looked at each other lovingly and then gazed at our beautiful boy lovingly. Then we turned to each other again and almost simultaneously said: F**k you, Instagram Karen, you doos. He is not going to remember that miserable walk, but we can guarantee you, he will always reminisce about his safe and loving home, and lounging on the couch on Sundays while watching tennis.

Put that on your blackboard and smoke it. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

No Comments, yet

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted