This week marked the start of first grade for my daughter. This beginning also means I am saying goodbye.

Once upon a time there was a little three and half-year old girl who wanted to go to school because she watched Nemo get so excited about the prospect attending school. She announced to me, “Momma, I can’t wait to go to school like Nemo. School, Momma, when are we going?” She didn’t quite grasp the concept  of school and what it meant. When we dropped her off at pre-school, she carried her pink lunch box and backpack as she entered the doors. We escorted her into the classroom and met her teacher. “Goodbye, honey! Have a good day at school!” I said these words to her, my bottom lip quivering, holding back tears. As soon as I turned around to leave, she started crying. “Momma, I don’t want you to go. Please stay.” The teacher told us that this was a typical reaction and everything would be fine. We watched her for thirty minutes outside the pre-school window, hoping that in the next minute she would stop crying. Eventually drop-off’s to preschool transitioned into a smoother process.

Three years later she enters first grade. In the morning she could not hold it all in. “Momma, I am so excited for first grade. Can you believe it Momma? I am in first grade.” Every time she said this, my heart ached a little. As we pulled up to the school, she didn’t wait for me. Her long limbs raced up the school door. “Wait! I want to take a picture of you.” I snap a few shots as her patience evaporates. “Come on Momma! I want to begin first grade.” Her voice carried the air of a command. We approach her classroom door and she emptied her backpack, says hello to a few friends, and without a single moment of hesitation, she says, “Bye Momma.” Even before I realize what happened, I see my little girl running away from me and toward the playground. I expect her to  look at me one more time or charge me with a hug or kiss, but none of those things happen. Instead, I stalk my daughter by following her to the playground to catch one more glimpse of her. She is swinging on the monkey bars and laughing.

I whisper goodbye in a small voice. She is not mine. She is becoming a part of the world.