It seems interesting to me that some of the intense emotions I experience continue to relate to my children, even though they are grown. These emotions tend to differ from those I felt when they were small – or perhaps they are different manifestations of the same emotions, variations on a theme. These emotions are without the frustrations that occurred when sleep was interrupted or intelligence openly questioned with a look of disdain from a teenager.

This past week provided some examples of those intense emotions. On Monday I was able to join in a group at a scientific gathering and hear my son present some research related to his master’s degree. The talk was called “Behavioural genetics at a community level: the foraging gene’s influence on mutualist quality”. Given that title, you would assume my emotion around this would be dismay, or feelings of inadequacy. Really, what the heck does that title even mean? Actually, I understood what Kyle was speaking about because he has taken considerable time over the years explaining his work to me, in simple (or “mom”) terms. What the talk did evoke were feelings that perhaps my son is actually an alien. Not in the extraterrestrial sense, but in the sense that his intelligence may have not actually come through me, but from some alien source. He is definitely one smart cookie.

The other intense emotion was pride. Not in that “oh my gosh, look at that guy, he’s my kid and he’s so awesome” (which is true, but not what I’m meaning). No, pride for his achievements, for his confidence, his enthusiasm, his ability to capture an audience by bringing his work forward in an engaging manner. He plainly admitted the areas where he has work to do, where things have not followed his desired path, but also said, “look what I’ve learned along the way”.

I cannot gauge his achievements on the success scale in the scientific world as I do not have an understanding of what that would look like. I simply know that he works hard, sets goals and achieves them. He is grateful to those who help him along the way and he acknowledges them often. And he makes me want to keep on learning and understanding the world.

Kyle was seven when he said he wanted to be a scientist and work in a lab. At 22, he’s living that life. There are other goals and other paths he will choose, but to see him in his world, living that dream, is always a gift to me.

My daughter, a few months short of turning 20, evokes strong emotions of inspiration. She moves through her days, wringing life and experiences out of every opportunity and breathing it all in. This photo taken this past weekend, well, it’s all Laura. She is living her dream; although she did not articulate this dream at age 7, she has been moving toward this point in her life longer than that – from the moment she was born.

Laura is a free spirit, perhaps a person born at the wrong time and yet exactly where she should be. She is intelligent, profoundly caring and possesses an enormous heart. When she comes into your life, your feel her presence. She inspires me to be more positive – she describes herself as a person with “positivity” and that is her in a nutshell. She inspires me to do more, feel more, see more. It is her endless energy, “positivity” and wonderfully smart writing style that make me question if those parts of her also came through some alien source.

Laura studies anthropology; she once noted that the discipline’s purpose is to teach you to be a better person. What a perfect fit – because knowing Laura, watching her live her life, you sense that she wants to make the whole world a better place. And you’d be right. Laura wants people to know and understand each other in order to be more tolerant. Her acceptance of difference is seamless and natural.

I’ve always been proud of my children; they’ve always inspired me. It is different now. It seems simpler, not complicated by the day-to-day issues that arise within families. These emotions, intense as they are, are simple. They bring great joy and contentment.

When you are slogging through the days of raising your family, people always say you’ll look back and regret not appreciating what you had. This is true; at this point, though, I’m learning that there is more to come, always.