Now that my children are grown with families of their own, I often feel disconnected from them. Sometimes I don’t feel like a mother at all. Since my chicks began vacating the nest about 10 years ago, I’ve struggled to find my new place in their lives.

What do they need from me? What do I want from them? There are no easy answers.

But every now and then it all becomes clear and the mother in me rises from the ashes to do the things that I do best: worry and pray.

Last week, I woke very early one morning from a deep sleep. Unable to fall back to sleep, I picked up my phone and opened Facebook. Scrolling through the most recent posts, I came across this one from the Fort Worth Police Department:

“An officer has been shot. More details to follow.”

I immediately sprang to attention, checking the time, trying to recall what day it was.

My son is a Fort Worth police officer. He graduated from the academy in October and has worked the graveyard shift for several months. The last I heard, he was hoping to get on another shift that was more conducive to his family life. But had he? Was he working that early morning?

Fear and panic rose up inside me. They were familiar feelings. I dealt with them often when he was in Iraq. A Marine and machine-gunner, he served two tours there in 2006 and 2008. Those were difficult years, but like a true stoic Marine mom, I sucked it up and made it through. And thankfully, he did, too.

Worry and pray. That’s all I could do.

But this time around, I have another tool at my disposal to help with the worrying and praying: text messages. After reading the FWPD post, I grabbed my phone and sent my son a special message:

“Dear Sonny, Please let me know if you are working the same schedule so I will know when to worry about you.

I love you.”

I immediately felt better and stronger. Just sending the text made me feel more powerful, like I was in control of the worry instead of the worry controlling me. Later, I learned he was not the officer who was shot, and the one who had been shot was not seriously injured. It was a good day for moms.

Now this week, my youngest daughter prepared for her first trip to Vegas. She leaves today with a group of friends and is excited about the vacation. I was excited for her, too, but as her mother, I was also nervous. All the back-to-back episodes of “Dateline: Hard Evidence” I watched this week probably didn’t help my state of mind, since half of the featured murders took place in Vegas.

I talked to her on the phone the other morning. She told me details of her trip — who she’s going with, when her plane leaves, their party plans — but just before I could give her all the “don’ts” I had thought to warn her about, she arrived at work and said goodbye.

“OK, call me before you leave Friday so I can give you last minute instructions!” I yelled before the call disconnected, ensuring, probably, with that one final line, that she would not call me before her plane leaves.

My youngest daughter, my baby girl who is so much like her own “don’t tell me what to do” mother, will fly off to Vegas without my words of warning. But I’m not concerned. I have Mother’s Little Helper — text messaging. If she doesn’t call by 1 p.m. today, I’ll just send her a message. I already have it drafted in my head:

“Hi Jess, Have fun in Vegas but BE CAREFUL. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t take ‘vitamins’ from men with gold jewelry. Don’t get married. Don’t go anywhere alone. Drink plenty of water. Bring me a surprise. I love you.”

Worry and pray. That’s all I can do.

Kristi Parker Johnson is metro editor of the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact her at or (254) 501-7548.

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