I always wanted to be a mother. Perhaps it would be even more clear to say I always wanted children. It wasn't a decision I weighed over time, with much gravity, deciding between lifestyles, considering the sacrifices it would bring. For me, the desire to have children came as easily and naturally as breathing.

For me, being a mother - and by extension a grandmother - is the most fun it is possible to have in this life. And, the most heartache and worry I believe it is possible to feel. From the time my first son smiled at me with recognition and love lighting his face to a time 22 years later when I was the first human (not wearing neoprene gloves) to touch my first grandson's hand, I've never been sorry I took the ride.

I enjoyed watching my babies begin navigating their world with chubby knees crawling down the hallway. I tried not to laugh at 2 year-old stomps of frustration insisting on independence, "I can do it my byself!!!"(not a typo)

I liked trying to figure out what they needed before they could tell me, and enjoyed it when I guessed right.

The first string of words opened the door to more of what was going on inside their heads, and what a fascinating world that was! I still get a charge out of remembering their excitement at being able to communicate and the 'mistakes' that come with learning to talk. "Mama! Mama! There's hopgrassers all over the fence!" My all-time favorite was a grandson-invented word, 'tomorner', apparently a very useful combination of 'tomorrow' and 'morning'. I was more than a little sad when he started correcting himself to 'tomorrow morning'.

I try to tell my children who are parents that their time with children at home will seem to have been very short once it is over and their children cease to be children. I try to tell them to put their tiredness on the back burner just enough to stop and enjoy this short time when they are the most important person in a little person's life.

My seven year-old grandson gave up his bed for me last time I visited, and he slept on a cot nearby. He talked and talked long after we were both in our beds. I heard about school, his friends, his enemies, recess, riding 4-wheelers on "the BLM" and his thoughts on what he would be like when he was "grown up". He talked about God and right and wrong, what he would and wouldn't do when he was a teenager and a man.

I was so sleepy. But I couldn't tell him to stop talking. I kept thinking that talking to grandma will not always be his top priority. I probably won't even make the list; so I have to enjoy it now.

I cannot imagine a life without children. For me, it is still the most fun you can have in this life, and the most heartache and worry.

A while ago a young woman said to me, "I think it's going to be really hard to be a mom and have to worry about someone for 18 years!" Should I have told her that 18 years is just the beginning of the length of time a mom is on worry duty? Nah, I'll let her find out for herself.

No matter how many times I remind myself that my grown children have their own journey; that I've taught them all their lives and now it's time for them to determine their direction, it takes all my self control not to tell them what they should do. (They would say I don't have any self control and I tell them all the time; but they don't hear the times I succeed in NOT saying something.)

My own very strong mother was fairly critical and had no problem telling me what I should do, well into my 40's. We lived in different states and once when she came for a visit, I really thought I had finally succeeded in being the person she felt I should be. She had not uttered one criticism or direction the entire week she stayed at my house.

One of the last nights she stayed, I did something I had done often when I was a child, I eavesdropped as my mother prayed vocally at night kneeling by her bed. This is what I heard: "Heavenly Father, please help me keep my mouth shut one more day!"

So much for pleasing my mother. But in addition to all the continuing direction as to what I should do, she was one of my biggest fans. I knew she thought being a mom was super fun, mixed with heartache and worry. She died in 1997. I miss her, and have much more understanding and appreciation now for what she was trying to do. She really did steer me at important crossroads in my life and I am so grateful for all the "shoulds" that made a difference.

Perhaps my children and grandchildren think that they will finally be free of my "shoulds" once I die. Ha Ha. Should I tell them I can still clearly hear my mother's voice in my head steering me? Nah, I'll let them find out for themselves.

Joyce Sheen can be reached via email at j.sheen@winnemuccapublishing.net.