Recently, my 18 year old daughter and I were texting about sadness. I was feeling a little down, and she’d been feeling blue for weeks. We were both aware that our sadness was intensified because it was dark outside (I tell my kids to sleep on their worries because solutions are easier to see by the light of day.)
She suggested that when she got home, we cuddle, watch a movie and be sad together, then added a private saying we’ve shared since she was two:
“Appa Juice Bottle, Peez”.
When she was little she loved drinking apple juice from a bottle. She would drink “apple juice bottles” at times when she was relaxed and content, so this little phrase became synonymous with going to her Happy Place.
I love that at age 18 she still wants to squirrel away with Mom and “be girls,” talk about boys, relationships, weird stuff she’s going through, share her fears about leaving childhood behind, and giggle at silly pictures on her blog. At these times, we exist in our own little bubble, outside of time and worry.
As I read her sweet text, I was struck with an acute awareness that I’d been struggling with some melancholy myself.
It starts gradually in the evening. My husband and I will have enjoyed a nice dinner out, walk into the dark, quiet house (though far from lonely with our six cats, a dog and a rabbit) and I’ll be struck by the contrast between now and the days when SpongeBob was blasting from the TV and every fifth word was “Mom!”
I love the quiet — when it’s just my husband and I, curling up, covered in purring kitties, watching Mad Men on DVD. As a parent, it’s one of the things you look forward to – using your free time to do whatever you want. No karate lessons, rushing off to soccer practice, or getting after kids who are up past their bedtime.
But in a weird way, it’s not having to do these things that’s sad. It’s what the quiet house represents – that Empty Nest is fast approaching.
Since I became pregnant with my oldest child, it’s been all about motherhood. My children’s well-being has been at the heart of every choice, decision, and purchase I’ve made.
A good deal of my income was spent on things like childcare, Happy Meals, and new shoes every two months. I dealt with more dirty clothes, homework assignments, and skinned knees than I can possibly count. Neighborhood moms talking about motherhood while watching their kids play together was a nightly routine in our Rockwellian world.
But that’s changed as the years have passed. Now, my daughter’s 18 and my son is 15 1/2, old enough to get his Driver’s Permit, with a 4.3 GPA and a fantastic attitude towards academics. On top of these things he’s also just landed his first job.
So they’re big kids now. Young adults. No more time outs, Nick Toons, swimming lessons, or mac and cheese. They get themselves dressed, make their own meals (usually), and have their own house keys.
They don’t need a “Mommy” anymore.
So, how does a woman who has functioned primarily as “Mom” for 18 years breathe new life into her sense of purpose?
Volunteering for a local non-profits, managing projects, building websites, and planning events has helped ease the transition. I’ve been able to channel some of that good “mothering” energy into productive projects that help other people. It doesn’t replace being “Mom”, but it helps me feel needed.
Still, I get sad.
So, while I can, I’ll treasure the cuddles with my “little girl” while watching A Knight’s Tale in the dark, with happy kitties draped over our legs, solving the problems of our world, and sharing whatever else might come to mind.
I know my kids are growing up. But for now…
Appa juice bottle, peez.