It is the last day of school for my daughter today. This afternoon, we become parents of a 4th grader. As I type these lines, small tears start to form in my eyes. I tilt my head backwards to keep them from streaming down my face.

Our morning started the same, a call for her to get ready as she ambles out of bed and toward the bathroom. I plead with her to drink a smoothie and reminded her to gather all her essentials for school before we barreled out the door.

Today, though, I looked up at her, attempting to memorialize this particular moment as it happened. She is all long legs, tan skin with her hair styled the way she wants it. She depends less on my assistance, picking out outfits, brushing her hair in a ponytail and sometimes, even grabbing breakfast. Her personality is developing; I see the shape of it forming, like a whittler carving out fresh wood. Her feistiness roars at home, but when we meet someone new, she huddles behind me and introversion takes over the reigns. Instead of hanging out with me in the afternoons, she slides into her room, hoping to converse with her friends on my phone. When I try to console after a disappointment, she says, “I will be ok, Momma. I am not a baby anymore.”

Those words. Oh, those words. I do know that she isn’t a baby anymore, but I find it difficult to say it out loud.

The signs are everywhere. We lost the booster seat last week. She yelped for glee that she didn’t need a “baby” seat anymore, while I mourned the passing of yet another milestone. Her original baby seat, the one that cradled her body from the hospital to home, still sits in the garage holding vigil, as does her crib and the baby boppy that we both used during her infant years. My daughter dismisses these relics of her past, while I treat them as treasures in a museum.

Not only do I notice how she is inches away from my height, she is asking questions about complicated subjects that I find difficult to answer. One night last week, without any warning, she posed this question, “What is a soul, Momma?” My thoughts on this question straddle between the simplistic and the complex and I hunted around for an answer, finally settling on, “It is what we are inside.” After spouting these words out, I filed this question and answer session in my head, wanting to revisit it later. She is making other observations too. When she learned of William and Kate’s little girl arriving, she said, “The news covers William and his family more than Kate’s. That isn’t fair, Momma.” I explained the difference between a royal person and a commoner, but I am not certain how much of this conversation percolated in her head.

Her mind is stretching, grasping at the tall stalks of turning into a young adult, but there are slivers that reveal how much she is still a little girl. She enjoys grooming her American Girl doll and playing with hair and dressing her in various clothes. If she hears a sudden noise, she darts to where I am sitting, scared by how the silence disappears. Although I cannot kiss her cheek goodbye in the classroom, at home, she will shower me with hugs and kisses and then say the words, “I love you so much, Momma.”

Today she begins the day as a third grader and exits the evening as a fourth grader. Another milestone… Here and gone.

Isn’t that how it is meant to be?