The apple doll years

Apple doll

Two decades ago a social worker told me it isn’t unusual for adoptive moms to experience grief when their daughters reach puberty. She said as our kids enter their reproductive years, many adoptive moms are approaching our apple doll years. We watch their lives blossom while we become fruit leather. The wise social worker said we might grieve again our own losses all those years ago. Loss of fertility, loss of genetic continuity, loss of the child we wanted but couldn’t have.

I can report with great relief that this hasn’t happened to me – yet. The daughters are well into their teen years and one is now in her twenties. Yes, I’m finding a house full of young adult daughters overwhelming at times but not because of the high cost of providing tampons or thinking about future grandchildren who won’t look like me, or cursing them for being able to make babies while I couldn’t.

What causes me regular gut-grief is the incisive scrutiny of my mothering abilities. I am a bottomless source of commentary; a mothering experiment in a petrie dish picked up with tweezers and latex gloves, dangled and examined – a mom-amoeba naked in front of my children. At 58, that jelly-like mass of cytoplasm that holds mom-amoeba together isn’t pretty and my flaws are as visible as banana slices suspended in lemon Jello.

Frankly, I’m happy my kids don’t have my mess of DNA. But their routine examination of me reveals my pathetically fragile emotional life. And I can’t blame it on hormones anymore.

Here are a few examples of recent interactions.

Daughter: You know what I hate?

Mother: No dear, what?

Daughter: Nervous laughter.

Mother: I do that.

Daughter: I know.

***

Daughter: Do you want to see what she posted on Instagram? No. Wait. I’ll show dad – it might hurt your feelings.

Mother: Ok.

Daughter: Do you want to see?

Mother: No.

Daughter: (Nervous laughter – YES! Nervous laughter.) Are you sure?

Mother: (Agrees, knowing it will probably hurt her feelings.) Okay.

Mean
It’s true, but still….

Daughter: She doesn’t post this stuff all the time.

Mom: (Applies stone-face) Good to know.

***

The following day. parental units converse while teenagers sleep.

Father: What’s wrong?

Mother: That meme hurt my feelings.

Father: It’s not about you. It’s universal.

Mother: It’s also particular.

Combined with the workshop I attended a few months ago on non-verbal communication, which resulted in some unsettling personal reflection, and the on-going assessment of my qualities as a mother, my jello ego is getting a helluva workout and my mom-amoeba’s cytoplasm is drying up. I’d like to go back in the petrie dish, have a warm salt bath, and dream about grandchildren who won’t look like me but who, I hope, will have the jagged tongues of their mothers.

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21 thoughts on “The apple doll years

  1. Jan Wilberg January 17, 2016 / 10:21 am

    I’m ahead of you time wise – my adopted kids late 20’s/early 30’s. Just now throwing the Petri dish in the trash. I get it.

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    • Susanne January 17, 2016 / 6:18 pm

      You’d think we’d develop rhino hides but some days I feel as thin as a bubble.

      Like

  2. Luanne January 17, 2016 / 12:23 pm

    Hah, yeah, the older I get the more wobbly (like jello) my mom capabilities feel. However, I do feel needed this morning because son asked my opinion about a city to have his wedding in :). Woot. Of course, he’s 31. I didn’t go through that period you mentioned either. I was way too busy when my kids were hitting puberty–running interference with all the stuff that kept coming up hahaha.

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    • Susanne January 17, 2016 / 6:19 pm

      Maybe in our cases the jell-o should stay in the mold – kind of like a girdle. Nice to be part of the wedding planning – very exciting and joyful times ahead!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Luanne January 19, 2016 / 3:33 pm

        Hahahaha. In MY case, for sure!!!

        Like

  3. J.B. Whitmore January 17, 2016 / 2:43 pm

    You know this, of course, but I’ll reinforce. Twenty-two. They turn twenty-two, have a bit of experience alone outside the shelter of your umbrella, and boom! You start looking less like the embarrassing crone and more like queen of the world. It’s fantastic. Apple dolls! Funny. Cheers —

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    • Susanne January 17, 2016 / 6:21 pm

      I look forward to the day when I’m Queen of the World! Thanks for the wisdom, J.B.

      Like

  4. Bruce Goodman January 17, 2016 / 3:02 pm

    When all’s said and done – you have a wonderful resource at your finger tips for writing! I’m giving up putting banana in my lemon Jello!

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    • Susanne January 17, 2016 / 6:23 pm

      Jell-O with fruit in it was a regular night dessert when I was a kid. I haven’t made it in 45 years but I remember it fondly. Seriously.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bruce Goodman January 17, 2016 / 6:49 pm

        I haven’t had it for years, nor made it for years. Jello-O is the North American word for it, which we don’t have over here. We call it “Jelly”, and Jam is jam, and the jam that strained through muslin is sometimes called jelly as well. But the wobbly stuff for dessert is always called jelly! My sister and I as kids used to shake out calf muscles and say “Have you seen my jelly wobble?” which back then we thought was very funny!

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  5. Cynthia Jobin January 17, 2016 / 4:32 pm

    Oh…I wouldn’t want to be banana slices in lemon jello….I will pray that it’s just a figment of your imagination, and before you know it, you’ll be a retired grandmother…..fat, dumb, and happy!

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  6. hilarycustancegreen January 17, 2016 / 5:08 pm

    I think teenagers go in for this, whether they are genetically linked or not. I was very mean to my mum over this period. Recently my very grown-up (mid thirties) children happened to be together on mother’s day. They sent me a card with an apology for a particular moment when they felt they had been unfairly mean. Curiously it wasn’t a moment that had hurt me, as I knew they were under stress at the time. It is so difficult to know what really goes on inside someone else’s mind. With teenagers their brains are in the later stages of being completed and they make a lot of emotional faux pas. I guess you know all this. Hang in there and these wonderful young women will emerge. I felt I was a bad mother and am constantly astonished by the wonderful people who have emerged from under my wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susanne January 17, 2016 / 6:30 pm

      How wonderful that your children reflect on their childhoods and recognize their shortcomings in the kindness department. That in itself is a nice nod. I really enjoy my kids – their energy, enthusiasm, even their snark (most of the time) which you’re so right about. They’re still developing and they’ll soon figure all this emotional stuff out. I just need to work harder on my rhino hide

      Liked by 1 person

  7. exiledprospero January 19, 2016 / 5:58 pm

    The teen brain is full of teensy neurons, firing randomly mostly, but sometimes unleashed with great precision and control, coalescing on an insensitive jibe or jeer. Darn kids! Darn lovable, bright, and unforgettable kids!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. D. Wallace Peach February 5, 2016 / 8:49 pm

    Motherhood. Yeesh. We had to walk on eggshells around my daughter, and when I was a teenager, I made my mother cry more than once. Eventually, we all grow up! Thank God! Stay strong. They too will grow up and probably get a taste of their own medicine. Life has a funny way of doing that 🙂

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