Life seems long when we’re looking ahead, and so short when we’re looking back.

That’s especially true for a mother. One day you’re holding a colicky two-month old, wondering if he’s ever going to stop crying. And the next day you’re dropping him off at college, wondering if he’s ever going to call you.

Where does time fly between colic and college?

I had three babies in five years. I taught them how to walk and talk and do their own laundry. Then one day, I turned around, and they were grown. And gone. And on their own.

I found myself wishing I could get them back — the babies and toddlers and even the teenagers. I wanted them to grow up. But I didn’t want to let them go.

Imagine my surprise to discover that grown children can be as much fun as little ones. Here are a few examples:

My youngest child was just finishing high school when we lost his dad to cancer. Instead of college, Nate got a job cleaning campgrounds in Yosemite National Park, his dad’s favorite place, where we had camped every summer as a family.

In January, when my father-in-law died, I called Nate to say I’d drive up to Yosemite, stay overnight and we’d drive out the next day to attend a service for his granddad. It was snowing when I pulled into the park.

The next morning, Nate and I left early, only to get stuck behind a bus that had skidded sideways, blocking the road.

We sat for five hours in a blizzard waiting for the road to be cleared. Meanwhile, Nate entertained me with knock-knock jokes and other things he had learned in Yosemite.

I will never forget it.

A few years later, I flew to New York, to visit my older son, an actor, who was living in Manhattan, and appearing as a doctor on a TV series called “Ed.” I spent the day on the set watching Josh act, and met the other actors in the show.

I’d planned to fly home the next day. But that night, Josh began having pain in his right side. We took a cab to a hospital, where he was admitted for an appendectomy.

When he was released from the hospital, I stayed for a week to take care of him. We watched movies and ate take-out meals.

I will never forget it.

Last fall, my daughter, who’s a mom to her 9-year-old, and a teacher to a classroom of third-graders, invited me to share a long weekend, just the two of us, at a house she’d rented a few hours from home. We cooked a little, ate out a lot, and spent hours talking and laughing.

I will never forget it.

In a month or so from now, when my oldest and his wife are expecting their second child, I plan to be on hand for “Nana Duty,” and try my best to keep 2-year-0ld Jonah entertained

I don’t know what it might entail, but I am certain — based on past experiences with the births of my older grandchildren — that I will never forget it.

Being a mother doesn’t end when our children grow up. We still want to protect them, just as we did the day they were born. But they won’t need us in the same ways they did when they were little. That’s what growing up means. Children need to be cared for. Adults can take care of themselves — except when they need a little help.

But grown children will always need a mother. Not to tell them what to do or, heaven forbid, how to do it. But to listen when they need to talk. And to pray for them day and night. And if they have children, to be a “nana” for their babes.

At the same time, we’ll always need our grown-up children to make us laugh and keep us young and fill that place in our heart that only they can fill. We can have a lot of great times together. Who knows? They might even do our laundry.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley, CA, 93924 or at www.sharonrandall.com.

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