As I write this, it’s Mother’s Day. I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience of being a mom. Pre-children, I imagined being a mom was pretty much a temporary gig. You loved your offspring whole boat loads, worked your butt off to help them grow into kind and decent human beings, and then you were done. Your kids went off into the world. Except for holiday get-togethers and visits with your totally irresistible grandchildren, life was essentially a lot like the pre-kids stage—only you had more wrinkles and hopefully, a bit more wisdom.

Well, yes and no. I really do have irresistible grandchildren, a product of the fact that my adult sons have indeed gone off to different parts of the country and created their own lives and families. And yet, I’ve never felt like an ex-Mom. From the moment my children arrived on the scene, I was stunned by the intensity of my love for these tiny creatures, and that intensity simply never went away. Call me hopelessly co-dependent, but now well into my children’s adulthood, nothing makes me happier than celebrating their joys, and nothing is quite as painful as seeing them endure disappointment and setbacks. I still feel like a mother lion, anxious to keep her cubs safe.

I’m hardly alone in loving my children intensely. Yesterday I attended a Sisters in Crime mystery writers’ meeting. Our guest speaker was an attractive fiftyish woman who’d created an arts agency for filmmakers, authors, and visual artists. After her talk, she revealed that she had recently lost 325 pounds. It had taken her five years, she told us, and involved gastric bypass surgery and a complete redo of her eating and exercise regimen. All I could think was, Wow. I’d once had a student who’d shed 100 pounds, which seemed remarkable, but this was more than triple that! It was like she’d disposed of three-quarters of herself.

What led her to finally make the choice to turn her life and health around? “It was my son,” she said. “He told me, ‘Mom, please. I really don’t want to lose you.’”

How amazing, I thought. It seemed as though she hadn’t been willing to change her life course for herself. But she was most willing to do whatever it took to protect her now-grown child from his fear of losing her prematurely.

Ah, motherhood. It has no expiration date.

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