Happy birthday Jemima! Simon Bridges' little girl turns one

''She's our special princess and she brightens up the entire family's lives.''

By Donna Fleming
Simon Bridges and his wife Natalie believe in never missing out on an opportunity to celebrate life's milestones – no matter how busy they are.
So when daughter Jemima turned one on December 8, they dropped everything and pulled out all the stops for a birthday party that marked a year with a sweet girl they describe as their "icing on the cake."
"I can't believe she's one," says the Leader of the Opposition, who also has two sons, Emlyn (6) and Harry (4).
"Jemima, or JJ as we call her, is just amazing. She's our pride and joy. We have the two boys, but she's our special princess and she brightens up the entire family's lives. I'm away a lot, but I was so glad to be there to celebrate her big day."
Natalie adds, "I'm really big on making sure we mark these occasions and cherish them so that the children have lovely memories."
For Jemima, the highlight of the day was possibly when she got to smash up her pretty lemon cake that Natalie made – and while the boys helped decorate it, the smashing was all Jemima, Simon (42) confirms.
"We'd been gearing up for her birthday for a wee while, and it's been such a big year so we had to make sure we celebrated it in style," he nods. "I was looking forward to a piece of cake, but after the damage inflicted, I was a bit hesitant. She was the destructor-in-chief!"
Jemima's birthday fell on a Saturday, so Simon was able to be at home with his family for the occasion.
"I often get back on a Friday and to be honest, the boys are pretty nonplussed," he tells. "They're preoccupied with their cartoons or playing with a ball. But JJ gives me a big smile and she loves a cuddle. Her first word was Dada!"
"The thing with Simon is that he's very attentive," adds Natalie (36), who has her own PR business. "He's away a lot, but when he's home he's really there. He plays with the kids, he reads them stories, he gives them his full attention. He's an amazing dad to all of them."Simon is definitely smitten with his wee girl.
"They've got a strong bond and she's already got him wrapped around her little finger," laughs Natalie. "She can do no wrong, that child. She is very sweet."
"That's absolutely true!" smiles Simon. "Sad but true – I'm already worried about her teenage years!"
Jemima made quick work of her birthday cake
Jemima's brothers also adore her.
"Emlyn and Harry just dote on her," says the proud mum.
"Older siblings can think the younger ones are a bit of a pain and I wondered if they would think she was invading their space, and she does, but they welcome her with open arms and are very loving and protective towards her. It's lovely how close they are and it's what you want to see as a parent.
"Having Jemima was a beautiful finish to our family; we don't have any plans to have any more children. It has changed all of us, having her. We all adore her and she is a real delight."
Jemima's personality is starting to shine through and her parents say she's already very outgoing.
"She's turning into such a little character," says her mum. "She's one of those children who, when you put them in a room, walks up to people with her arms open. She loves people and interacting with them. I think she's going to be a very personable little girl."
A future politician, perhaps? Simon is thrilled at the thought.
"She's got the skills," he muses. "She knows how to play people – she knows the best way to get attention is smiles. She's usually so happy and bubbly, but she's not afraid."
Natalie reckons at least one, if not all three, of the Bridges children could end up following in their dad's footsteps, and if Jemima continues to enjoy interacting with people from all walks of life, she might be the one to go after a seat in Parliament! And her mum doesn't have an issue with that.
"Despite what people may think, I think going into politics is a very noble thing," says Natalie. "Most people go into it with a huge heart and very noble reasons. I would like it if one of our children decided to take that route. And they do have a great role model."
He's faced issues such as the Jami-Lee Ross leak saga, as well as accusations that his MPs have been bullying their staff. Meanwhile, away from Parliament, Simon has been dealing with having a new baby and moving house.
"Oh look, this year has been massive," he says. "I became Leader of the National Party, which came with lows, then highs, then lows again. But Natalie and I are conscious that it's always a team effort and that my job has an effect on the whole family.
"My kids see me on TV almost as much as they see me in real life. So for things like JJ's birthday, we make sure we celebrate. It's quality time."
Adds Natalie, "It has been a really fulfilling year from many perspectives. You can't say that we don't put everything into life and live it to the full – it's always about how much we can pack in. We wonder what each year will bring, but it always surprises and challenges us.
"That's the privilege of being in politics – it's a fascinating place to be and you get to experience so much. It never gets boring!"
The couple have been looking forward to having some down-time over Christmas and the New Year, which they're spending at home.
"We're having a stay-cation and will just enjoy being in Tauranga," says Natalie. "You are torn because there is an opportunity to go away when Parliament shuts down, but at the same time, this is one of the best places to be in the world, let alone the country. It is going to be buzzing, so we will stay at home, relaxing and probably eating far too much food."
"And having afternoon naps!" Simon laughs.
The summer break is a chance for the home chef to show off his skills.
"He enjoys getting the cookbooks out and surprising us with something, which he doesn't have time to do the rest of the year. It is a nice treat for me," smiles Natalie.
Over the holidays, there will be plenty of barbecues and time spent at the beach. The whole family enjoys going for walks up the Mount at Mt Maunganui (Jemima in a backpack) and reading books.
Simon's got his Christmas wish at the ready too – he's currently trying to convince Natalie that an electronic drum kit is a good idea!
Of course, Simon's love of the drums is now infamous after he appeared on a National Party ad with drumsticks in hand.
"I think in this day and age they have to be electric... and they're quieter, so they won't annoy Nat as much."
When it comes to New Year's resolutions, Natalie says she won't be making any. "We'll just take things as they come."
And as for Simon, he just hopes New Zealanders have a great holiday break.
"I wish for people to have a great and safe Christmas, to reconnect with their friends and family. Merry Christmas!"

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