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Family first


NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

Family first

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“To understand your parents’ love, you must raise children yourself.”  – Chinese proverb

TONYA BLACKMAN knows exactly what that Chinese proverb means. Tonya is seeing much of her mother in herself as she is herself a mother raising a daughter.

It was a humid but breezy Saturday when EASY magazine met up with Tonya, 37, her mum Annette Blackman, 67, and Tonya’s daughter Jaidyn Trasatti, seven years old, in Queen’s Park.

Jaidyn was bubbly and precocious, answering her own questions for the interview and giving directions to mum and grandmum on how to pose for the pictures.

“I am tired,” she said, after Randy the photographer asked her to hold a certain pose.

“Well, this is what models have to do each day,” mum said, adding that if she wanted to be a model she would have to endure hours of standing and posing.

We all burst out laughing at the look of horror on Jaidyn’s face when she replied,  “I don’t think I want to be a model then.”

There is a bond that exists among the three that is tangible.

Grandmum Annette is a big part of Jaidyn’s life (she lives downstairs while Tonya lives upstairs) and is a support system for Tonya.

“I am retired now so I have more free time to spend with my grandchildren. I have a younger son who also has a son. When Tonya needs me to watch Jaidyn I am always willing.”

Annette raised her children in the church and Sunday school and is doing the same with Jaidyn.

“We attend a church in St Philip and she is a member of the Sunday school choir. She sang a solo last week and I was proud of her. Just like her mum and uncle she is being taught to fear God and have respect for people.”

Annette said values are very important to her and raising her daughter she had to take a different route to raising her son.

“It was easier to raise Tonya (she is oldest). She knew what she wanted and she set about achieving the goals she set for herself. My son he was more a fun-loving type. He wasn’t as settled or committed so I had to do a lot more work with him.”

Annette said Tonya was raising Jaidyn with the same values she tried to instil as a mum.

“I drilled into Tonya about having morals, always speaking the truth and being a leader and not a follower. I told her be truthful even if it meant getting punished. I see that being instilled in Jaidyn.

“Children need parents to be there for them and to encourage them. I am now teaching all these things to Jaidyn.”

Annette is a firm believer in not sparing the rod and has had to discipline Jaidyn on occasions but it is now at a stage where a look gets the message across.

Jaidyn piped in that she understood why she was being punished. “I love spending time with my grandmum,” she said. “When I am on vacation and don’t go to camp I am with her. We bake, make cookies, sweetbread, juices, listen to music and sometimes we both fall asleep in the bed.”

That triggered peals of laughter from mum and grandmum.

Annette is heavily involved in the 4H movement and so is Jaidyn.

“She is the youngest in the group. She was attending from she was three years old. We have a catering centre and so she assists a lot in there, icing cake, putting labels on the jams and jellies.”

Many sacrifices are made by parents every day and Tonya is no different in that aspect. An architect by trade (Temple University) she took a different route on her return to Barbados eight years ago so as to be there for Jaidyn, which means “sent by God”.

“She was planned. Me and my husband were living in Italy when I got pregnant. When we found out that I was pregnant we decided that Barbados is where we wanted to raise her.

“We also decided if it was a girl I would name her and it it was a boy he would get the honours.”

Tonya had a smooth uneventful pregnancy but she had to tamper with the birth date.

“She was to be born on September 11. I didn’t like the connotations associated with that date because of what happened in the US with the terrorists’ attacks so we decide to have her on September 9.”

Tonya said when the demands of juggling work and a baby took over she decided to “downgrade her workload a bit and only take on clients who want kitchens designed or remodelled”.

Jaidyn is into extracurricular activities and Tonya, a past student of Charles F. Broome and Queen’s College, said she couldn’t do it without a support system and grandparents.

Tonya is up at 5:30 a.m., preparing breakfast and lunch. Then it’s on to preparing Jaidyn for school. Home, work and school are in the same vicinity (whew) as Tonya has to be at work for 7:30 and Jaidyn has to be at Wills Primary for 7:30 a.m.

“It is not as difficult now. Before I had her I had a stressful job and a heavy workload. Now it is much easier. I can finish work on time, pick her up from school if need be (grandfather is the evening pickup), be home to cook dinner and do homework.”

It doesn’t always work out that way, says Tonya, as sometimes work crops up and that is where she has to rely on the grandparents to help.

Tonya says on weekends is when they go to the beach, go sightseeing or to the park, where they can have girl talk and just relax.

Jaidyn is involved in ballet, swimming and in 4H.

“I like the 4H as it helps her to be more social and outgoing. She is learning a role of Annie for a play now.”

But it isn’t all a bed of roses in raising Jaidyn.

“Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the amount of attention I have to give her and also the sacrifices I have to make. Many times I have to do without so she can have but there are some times I have said ‘no’ and disappointed her.

“When I have to tell her ‘no’ for something she asked for I explain why so she can know the reasons why.”

Tonya says her reward in being a mum is seeing Jaidyn becoming a respectful and responsible person: “I am moulding her.”

“I like to see that she is a go-getter and adventurous.”

Tonya though has a pet peeve and it has to do with being the mum to a bi-racial daughter.

“People have acted surprised. Some have commented on how her skin colour is different to mine so ‘she can’t belong to you’. Some have asked me where I got her from and one even ask me ‘yuh mek dat?’ That was so crazy I didn’t know how to respond,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief.

Tonya said she has other friends being mistaken as Jaidyn’s mum because they are of the same skin tone.

“I have a bigger issue of people saying ‘oh, you’re so pretty’ over and over. I am trying to instil in her that it is more than just being pretty. That you have to be smart and kind to people and be honest.”

Jaidyn can’t decide yet what she wants to be when she grows up but she has options: “I want to be a gymnast, a vet, a dance teacher, a doctor, and a zoo-keeper.”

For now Jaidyn is contented to play with her best friend Madison who lives close by and to hang out with grandmum.

“What I want for Jaidyn is to be a leader. Know that there will be obstacles and distractions and there will be speed bumps but keep your head on.

“For women raising daughters I want to say be patient. They are going to do things wrong but correct them and keep them on the right path. Once you instil good values in them, you won’t have to worry.”

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