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Young mothers often tell me how lucky I am that three of my children are grown. “Now you don’t have to stress about them anymore,” they say. “No more keeping track of their whereabouts. No more fretting over what they eat. No more worrying about their decisions.”

Wrong!

These well-intentioned women are surprised when I inform them that my worries are bigger. Mothers don’t stop being mothers just because their children grow up.

I still keep track of my progeny. If they travel anywhere I want to know when they get to their destination, and that they’ve arrived unscathed. I pine for the days when they simply wanted to cross town on a bicycle! Now, their adult travels take them thousands of miles away, sometimes in cars they think are safe but that I wouldn’t trust even on a trip to the grocery store.

I continue to fret about what my children eat—ask them, they’ll tell you I do. When their idea of three squares is a burger, fries, and a soda, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all I can do is give a friendly lecture on diet. They know they are free to chose, despite mom’s (yes, that same woman who taught them better) objections. And, yes, I worry when they make decisions I don’t agree with, or don’t understand. I do have faith they will be watched over, and I do believe they will strive to do their very best—I think all my children are phenomenal. But I don’t love them any less than when they were little so the knowledge that their bigger—adult—choices have bigger consequences does cause me concern.

And stress.

And worry.

When my son, Josh, was a teenager he worked for his father. When he neared the age of eighteen, he was offered a job by someone else. “Come on,” the other business owner chided, “you don’t want to work for your dad anymore.”My husband and I had serious reservations about the offer, but our opinions fell on deaf ears. The heartache I felt was two-fold: not only did our son leave the family business, but it was the first time he made a major decision we had no control over.

That experience with my son was the basis for my short story, ‘til the Cows Come Home, published in the book Hearts and Hands: Stories of Hope for Mothers. The mother in the story, Ann Robinson, feels frustration—and bit of anger—when her eldest son, Sam, decides to pursue carpentry. His father and grandfather made lives as farmers; she assumed Sam would as well. His unanticipated decision and abrupt departure leave her thinking her efforts as a mother have been in vain. Searching for answers, Ann comes to the understanding that generations past and future are bound together by both hope and sorrow, and that in memories of the past lays the promise of the future. She also discovers a simple truth: Families are made up of independent souls struggling to find their places in the world. What holds everything together is no more, no less, than simple heart-felt love. Ann knows—no matter what—Sam is forever her son and she will never stop caring about what happens in his life.

The care and concern a mother extends to her children takes on many forms, and stress and worry are part of package. Am I lucky three of my children are grown? Yes. Not because my work is finished or lessened, but because three remarkable individuals have taught me more about life, and myself, than I could ever have hoped to learn on my own.

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