Appa Juice Bottle, Peez

momandteenagedaughtersmilingRecently, 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. 

Enter sadness.

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. 

MomDaughter Cuddling Parentdish



5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Just me on March 19, 2011 at 4:19 am

    Just a thought…but maybe if you think of how you feel about your own Mom… you can see yourself as a lifetime Mom as well…a wonderfully, appreciated, and most importantly, deeply loved Mom, for a lifetime.


  2. Yes, definitely. And I do know that when the kids move out I don’t disappear. Far from it (I mean, if the stories I’ve heard have any credibility, they’ll be back with their laundry and asking for $$ within 60 days). UGH.

    It’s another of the million transitions you experience as a mother, only this time they’re not just starting preschool or graduating from the 6th grade. They are physically, and legally, adults, responsible for taking care of themselves. It represents the time when I go “hands off” and see how I did raising them. A bit scary, sad, and also really exciting.

    And as with any upcoming change, it’s probably scarier before it actually happens. 🙂


  3. Posted by Just me on March 19, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Yes, I see what you’re saying. I wasn’t meaning to overlook what you’re going through right now. I guess it was more seeing the parallel of love for a lifetime to maybe help cheer you. I apologize. I do though, have another thought to share… Have you by any chance talked to Mom about what it was like for her when her chicks were growing and the definition of being Mom were changing. Maybe she can offer you some consolation, wisdom, comfort, ideas? You know, I went through some somewhat similar types of feelings, except it was for grieving of the little sweetpeas I would come to visit… from infancy and experiencing being their doting aunt through their younger years as they continue to grow into beautiful adults. I’ve experienced my own kind of feelings of loss. I can only imagine what you must be experiencing…and for whatever it might be worth, I am supporting you in my heart, my thoughts and my prayers… and yes, I think you are right… it’s probably scarier before it actually happens…maybe seeing this transition as a series of natural changes that will take place when each changes’ time arises, instead of one big change would help things seem less overwhelming. Love you.


  4. I hear you. I so enjoyed every stage of my kids growing up. And then, they were out of the nest. Taken those wings and flew away. Lives and loves of their own. Busy, needed, valued, loved. Yes, I have continued to find ways to contribute to community, but it is not quite the same. And I am Mom. I still get those phone calls of wanting to share joy and sadness. I am their touchstone to childhood and that invisible thread of being held and connected. All is well, and all is different. Be gentle with yourself.


    • Thank you so much for your kind comments. It is getting a little easier, and nice to be reminded that I’ll always be Mom sharing in their joys and sadnesses. Thankfully, my husband and I share many common interests and so have many fun things planned for after the kids “leave the nest”. Thanks for your valuable insights, they are much appreciated!


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