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.

We were all created to be held. When it is no longer appropriate or even possible for a mother to hold her child's hand, it is always important for them to be certain of our love.

If you are lucky enough to still have young children who are totally dependent on you, make it a point to reach for their tiny hands, to cuddle with them often, to be affectionate and fill their need for loving, human touch.

As our children grow older and the expressions of our love morph into new ones, it's important to silence the shrill voices that devalue the continuing role of mom.

And, as your children become adults, the wise mother knows she must begin to fade into the background; but she also understands that fading does not mean disappearing. Allowing your adult children to live their own lives is a critical part of mothering. And so is letting them know that you are there when needed, and that the values you taught them when they were young will be true throughout their lives.

Yes, the time will come when you will no longer hold your children's hands; but you will always continue to mold and be felt in their hearts. You are a Forever Mother.

May 6, 2010

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family. Visit her website at www.HowToSaveYourFamily.com. where you can sign up to receive her free e-newsletter containing the Culture Challenge of the Week and how to fight back. Hagelin is also senior communications fellow for The Heritage Foundation.