Today marked another first day of school. Our little girl started second grade.

She jumped out of bed this morning without any prompting. Her light-brown swayed as she announced, “Momma, I am heading to the shower.” Bundled in her towel, she walked to her room and slipped on her uniform that she laid on her bed the night before. I sipped on my coffee and waited. In the past, she always asked for help to put on her socks. That question never came this morning. Instead, like dominos falling in perfect succession, she brushed her teeth, put on her socks, retrieved her lunch box from the fridge, and grabbed her water bottle. Prepped and ready to go, I felt a little emptiness, realizing that as each day passes, she needs less and less help for her daily routine.

She is, as she reminds me, everyday, seven and a half. And of course, she is not a baby anymore. Seven is still on the cusp of magic, but with a greater understanding of the real world. Seven is all about asking questions. “Momma, do unicorns really exist? Momma, I don’t understand, what does this word mean? Momma, why do I have to eat that?”  It also means doing  back bends in the middle of the living room, attempting cartwheels on grass, and dancing to Taylor Swift tunes in the middle of a store. She has strong opinions on what clothes to wear, how she wants her hair  done, and what shoes are the perfect match for her outfit.

It is an age full of exuberance. She likes to twirl around the room and give random hugs when you least expect. Instead of coloring in books, she makes notes that usually say, “I love you, Momma.” Picture taking is a must and her eagerness spills like a waterfall at every turn.

I ask, “How did this happen?” To say it goes by so fast really under amplifies my emotions, as she climbs the ladder from baby to toddler to girl to teen to a woman. Pinching myself, I am in awe, a mixture of happiness and sadness swirls around inside of me.

As we walked together to her classroom, she squeezed me hard, but her gaze was directed toward her friends.

Then in an instant, it happened. She let go.