Tea Therapy

Considering that one of my children is not speaking to me, I had a perfectly marvelous Mother’s Day last weekend. I took my 9-year-old daughter, Francesca, for a three-course high tea. We sipped strawberry tea and ate little triangles stuffed with smoked salmon, cucumber, and chicken salad. We smeared jam and Devonshire cream on scones, then rounded off the carbohydrate cornucopia with madeleines, chocolate-covered strawberries and truffles.

Seated around us were varying constellations of families. There were grandmas with adult kids and grandkids; grown-up sons and daughters with moms; young couples with toddlers; and a few mother-daughter pairs.

Maybe it was because steaming tea pots were wrapped in floral-patterned tea cozies, and we were all holding up our pinkies as we sipped from china cups, and the owner kept stopping by people’s tables and asking, in her soothing British voice, “is everyone heppy?”– but whatever it was, everyone did seem ever so well-adjusted and unsullied by family discord.

If anyone had been chomped to bits by a divorce, or felt estranged from a parent, or nursed a neurosis, or was living a life of quiet desperation, you just would not have known it by looking around the room, the walls of which were bedecked with shelves of stuffed animals, and the air in which laughter and talk wafted gaily.

What is about a pot of tea and a basket of scones that call forth the best in people? According to Wikipedia, the Victorian-era high tea provided the intersection of the “right equipment, manners and social circle.” Even now, wherever it takes place, in London, Asia, or America, the tea ceremony “is practiced to foster harmony in humanity, promote harmony with nature, discipline the mind, quiet the heart, and attain the the purity of enlightenment.”

And so it was, during our Mother’s Day tea. Children sat calmly in their seats. Adults hid their cell phones from view. It was all “please” and “thank you” and “lovely” as the wait staff poured and served and cleared, each time with a bob and a smile. These were not waiters that were doing a a “job”; these were tea house artisans who were practicing an art. And for two hours, we were all better for it.

As the first cup was poured, Franny handed me the Mother’s Day card she had made me. On the cover, in colored pencil, she had drawn a baby deer and a mama deer nestled in grass. When I opened the card, I read Franny’s inventive spelling and earnest sentiments: “Dear Mom you are nice, sweet, everything but mean. and I will allweas love you!”

I wondered how she had chosen the wording, “everything  but mean.” Perhaps she was trying to offset the remarks she has heard her dad and her brother make about me for the past eight years. Or perhaps she simply has a different view of her mother and has managed to navigate a monsoon of a divorce with her young ego and ability to love both parents in tact.

At times, when Franny complains of being sick when she has no fever, or bursts into tears over minor events, I have considered taking her to therapy but have been told routinely, “I don’t like to talk about my feelings.”

But maybe tea time could be her therapy–and mine. Even tea for two would be cheaper than therapy for one. We could stop in this tea house and be comforted by an age-old ritual in which all manner of existential nightmares are banished by finely brewed tea, polished silver, and properly served scones, and the lady of the house stops by to inquire, sincerely, if we are “heppy.” 

For two hours last Sunday, our existential nightmare slipped away, all but forgotten. We were just a mother and a daughter relaxing in each other’s company.

And we were heppy.

Tea Time: The New Prozac?


About perilsofdivorcedpauline

I am a survivor of a world-class gnarly divorce. My dastardly ex-husband is suing me for full custody of my son, and more time with my daughter. He’s super-rich and I’m super-not. You get the picture.
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8 Responses to Tea Therapy

  1. I love it! (And I love the sound of “tea cozies,” too.)

    Frankly, when there is anything touchy to discuss with my kids, I remind myself to give them food first, and to make sure that I’m not addressing something at a point in the day when they are distracted or low energy.

    But the food thing really works when they’re in growth spurts, and certainly through the teen years. As for me, I wish I could join you for a cup of tea. (Maybe I’ll go put the kettle on… )

    They do love us – you know? But it isn’t always easy for them to say it.


  2. This is lovely, thank you for sharing.

  3. theblendededge says:

    So cute. Bella lets her guard down when we are engaged in something else, too. She talks the most when we go out for the occassional gellato and hot cocoa. It’s a blessing to find those moments.

  4. Jenny Heitz says:

    I think the mere act of breaking bread together changes things. I now take my daughter out to dinner every Tuesday, and it’s a lovely way to connect. She’s very partial to Japanese noodles, so I guess we’re having a “noodle ceremony” instead.

  5. badbadwebbis says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog via Posts from the Blended Edge, and I have found your posts to be beautifully honest, and very painful. I divorced my daughters’ father 10 1/2 years ago, and have been happily remarried for a year, but the ugliness of divorce and the frustration and anger that result from watching your children suffer from a manipulative parent never go away.

    My husband is much more recently divorced than I, and he sees his children rarely because they live halfway across the country from us. His ex won’t share transportation costs for visitation (although the court says she should) and he is becoming increasingly estranged from his son, who is 10.

    My heart aches for you and for your son — your ex-husband is clearly using him in all possible ways to hurt you, even if he isn’t consciously aware that he is doing so. I hope things improve, but even if they stay miserable for a while, please remember that your son still loves you. I have watched my daughters struggle to negotiate the relationship with their father in the face of his wife’s hatred for me, and it has nearly broken my heart at times. They are now almost 17 and 14, and things are much better. As Luca gets older I am convinced that he will realize that you have always been on his side.

    Best of luck.

    • Could any of us ever have imagined the destruction that would ensue from having children with the wrong person? It’s amazing how many of us are in the same choppy waters. Thanks for stopping by–and best of luck to you as well.

  6. bronnie says:

    What a lovely post! You know, a few years ago, I discovered sitting down with a cup of tea and making time to chat calms down Mr 10 whenever he is feeling anxious, sad, worried, sick or just like some one on one time. It’s kind of a tradition between us now, and it’s lovely.
    My daughter doesn’t like tea, but she usually gets her one on one time by climbing into bed with me in the morning for a cuddle and a chat.
    I’m so glad you were able to be happy on Mother’s Day and spare this special time with your little girl. xo

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