Giving mothers an opportunity to bond with their daughters
Watching her daughter, Austin, grow up is a bittersweet experience for Shawnette Smith.
While she loves that the 11-year-old is becoming more independent, it sometimes gets her down.
“I definitely find it painful that my daughter does not need me as much,” she said. “But I have to trust the process and trust that I have given her the skill set to move into this next phase.”
She was looking for a way to spend some quality time with Austin when she learnt of Antonia Holder's Mother and Daughter Empowerment Tea.
The event was aimed at strengthening the bond between girls and their mothers; Ms Smith thought it would be a perfect fit.
She and her daughter share a love for fashion so the tea gave them the chance to show off their flair.
They showed up “dressed to the nines” at the February 2020 tea and were a little surprised to see everyone else in sweatpants.
“When we walked in someone said to us, 'I guess you didn’t get the memo’,” Ms Smith said. “We just had a giggle about it.”
Together, they did art and exercised before they split up.
“The takeaway for me was to be more intentional,” Ms Smith said. “At the end of the tea they asked the girls to write down things they wanted to do with their mothers in the future. One of the things Austin said was she always wanted to go to the glass beach in Dockyard. She also said she wanted a movie night and she wanted to go on a nature walk. So we wrote a plan for doing the things she wanted to do.”
The pandemic set in soon after the tea. It was a whole year before they could finally visit the West End beach.
Neither of them was entirely sure where it was; they missed the steps behind Prince Albert Row and had to climb over rocks to get there.
“We were dodging the water,” Ms Smith said. “It was definitely an adventure. It developed trust. We were helping each other over the rocks. Austin had an awesome day. Afterward she made figurines with a few pieces of the glass we found.”
Ms Holder organises the teas for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 and their moms.
A self-described “mother-daughter cheerleader”, it was her idea to create an afternoon where mothers could come together with their daughters and have a fun time bonding.
“It is not just a stroll out and about, it is more of an intentional time to grow together and learn different things,” she said.
“Sometimes we think the mother-daughter bond is such a natural, organic relationship we don’t have to work on it. But we should be intentional with our time.”
Ms Holder's mother died when she was 12. She did not deal with the loss until she was much older but has always been fascinated by mother and daughter issues.
As such, when she started to think about how she could contribute to the community, all of her ideas centred around this special relationship.
A pilot tea three years ago under the auspices of her group, Mothers and Daughters Empowered, produced an outpouring of positive feedback.
“I could see there was a need for this,” she said. “I knew that this was a part of my calling in life. I wanted to do it every year.”
Desirae Simons was at that initial tea at the Dinghy Club in 2019 with her now 15-year-old daughter Naesaire. She also attended last year with her daughter, Trinitae, 11, and plans to take her to the next tea on Sunday.
“The first time we attended they had a counsellor from Family Centre,” Ms Simons said. “She spoke on relationships and teenage years and what to expect and what to look for.”
She found the talk reassuring.
“Everything she was saying pretty much I do for my daughters. She was talking about allowing them to have their own identity. Teenagers are going through changes and a lot of times they wish to be by themselves. She talked about how to formulate a relationship with them and be honest with them.”
The counsellor also discussed the importance of spending quality time with daughters, especially if you have more than one.
“You need to find time with them individually and together,” Ms Simons said. “And you need to praise them for what they do well, and acknowledge when they don’t and say, 'It is OK to fail. No one is perfect.'”
The takeaway for her was to be open with her daughters, even about her failures in life.
“You have to be open and transparent,” she said. “You have to recognise that as a parent you do make mistakes. You are not perfect.”
Last year’s tea sold out with 150 people in attendance.
This year, the event was rescheduled several times because of the pandemic. It now has the go-ahead, but has been capped at 100 people.
Kim Rego will give a workshop on mindfulness; Tressa Townsell of Mac Cosmetics will talk with the girls about skincare and make-up; and Sandra DeSilva will talk with mothers about developmental milestones.
Shivani Seth, the Gibbons Company stylist, and Malika Taylor of Expertise will also speak.
The tea takes place on Sunday from 1pm to 5.30pm at CedarBridge Academy. A SafeKey is required for entry.
Tickets are $165 for a mother and a daughter and $195 for a mother and two daughters.
For more information: www.mndempowered.com; email@example.com