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story.lead_photo.caption Liv Paggiarino/News TribunePictured is Amanda Smith, center, with her daughters Zaria, left, and Zhoe.

If she could write a book to describe her mom, 11-year-old Zhoe Smith is sure it would be well over 1,000 pages.

But as she looks into her mother's smiling eyes, there's one phrase she circles back to: "She's the best."

Amanda Smith and her daughters, Zhoe and 8-year-old Zaria, are close. The hang out every single day, Smith said — especially while practicing social distancing. They're her "little best friends." You can see it in the way Zhoe and Zaria eagerly stick to her side when all three flash toothy smiles for a photo.

"We do everything together — it's really important to me," Smith said. "And that's what makes (being a mom) so special. They're my little twins, but in two different ways."

For Amanda, the story comes full circle.

The woman voted "Best Mom" wasn't supposed to have any children.

At a young age, Smith was told it would be very unlikely she could have children, and if she did, it would come with great risk. Then, she became pregnant at 21 with her eldest child. Smith said she considers Zhoe one of her biggest blessings.

"We grew up together. She helped me grow up," Smith said. "I had some immature qualities, and I learned how to be an adult because of her. I learned how to become a mother and a best friend because of her. I just learned how to be a better person — stronger."

A few years later, she had Zaria. Not only did she have no complications with her first pregnancy, Smith said, she ended up having "two very healthy little girls."

As they've grown, Smith has worked hard to ensure her girls have opportunities to succeed. She tries to make "everything happen" for them — the things she didn't get to do as a child.

Zhoe took a shot at basketball. A couple of months ago, she won first place in the local Jr. NBA Skills Challenge and was awarded the opportunity to advance to regionals before the competition was unfortunately postponed due to the spread of coronavirus. Seeing her daughter's excitement, Smith said, was an "awesome memory to share with her."

Her second daughter, Zaria, took a slightly different approach — it involved handfuls of makeup. One day, Smith said, she looked over to see Zaria sitting in her room, covered in makeup everywhere. It was hilarious, because it's "very fitting for her." The 8-year-old girl has become a pageant queen.

Entering into a pageant with no prior practice or experience, Zaria took her place alongside 100 other pageant girls and came out on top, lighting up as she won first place.

"I like to experience those things with them because I don't put a lot of pressure on them to be the best — they just work really hard to do the best they can," Smith said.

The two experiences are some of Smith's favorite memories with her daughters.

And it seems the two girls have taken and implemented that attitude from their mother herself.

Her mother, Zhoe said, does a lot for the family and is always there when they need her.

"When we want something, she'll make time to either try to get it, or if we want to go into something, she'll try to make it happen," Zaria added.

It's one of the biggest parts of Smith's philosophy as a mother. The worst thing you can do, she said, is give up.

"And (Zhoe and Zaria) know that's one of our big things — never say never," Smith said.

Having her daughters nominate her for "Best Mom" was an emotional roller coaster. Smith is quick to recognize the fact that her daughters look up to her. She gets a lot of "thank yous," a lot of "you're so pretty" and "you're so nice." What she wants her daughters to take away from her goes beyond that.

In light of the opportunities she's had the chance to provide, she simply wants them to remain humble. She wants them to give back. To be grateful. To have respect. And, to depend on themselves.

"One thing I always tell them is 'If I wasn't here today, the only two people you would have is each other.' I try to make sure that they're very strong, independent little girls," Smith said.

Then, she smiles and meets their eyes once more.

"That's what we do, huh girls?"

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