Thank goodness I spotted the embroidered pillow on my mother-in-law's couch well before I had children of my own. It read: "A mother holds her children's hands for a little while; their hearts, forever." That simple truth has come to mind many times throughout my 22 years of mothering.
It has caused me to reach for my child's hand in times when she was frustrated or lonely. To take the initiative to embrace the sullen teenager that, on the surface, appeared aloof. When I hugged him tight, he started hugging back and I knew that the reassurance of my love for him through physical touch was exactly what he needed - in fact, it was what he had been craving, but didn't even realize it himself until it happened.
Many mothers aren't quite prepared for that moment when their grade school child suddenly instructs, "Mom, don't hold my hand in public." It is a universal, natural transition signaling that our little boys and girls are growing up.
Separation. Pulling apart. A growing need for freedom. They are healthy, important parts of becoming an independent human being who can eventually make their way in the world without you.
But don't let the modern culture twist that truth into a lie that says your teenagers or adult children don't need mothering. They do. There is no such thing as temporary motherhood.
No matter how hard society tries to devalue the role of active mothering, the fact is that God caused children to be born of mothers. When a child is separated from her birthmother the obvious need is for another woman who has that calling to become the mother. It's inescapable: children need moms. And there's also no escaping that mothers have a tremendous impact on us well beyond our childhood years.
I still need my own mother. Although she died some eight years ago and I have adult children of my own, I so treasure the wisdom and love my mother poured into me when I was a child.
When I recount the comforting warmth and deep happiness I felt from her approving smiles; the sting and jolt of shame that overcame me when I was righty reprimanded; or the stability I have known as an adult because she grounded me in biblical teachings, I realize just how powerful a force my mother remains in my life.
An important element of her lingering power rests in the memories of her physical touch. I've had to remind myself often that my children will recount my interactions with them throughout their lives, and those actions will shape the way they pass on a blessing or a curse to their own children.