As I sit down to contemplate my thoughts, I hesitate. Writing always makes the intangible pulse with a beat.

My daughter and I spent last week in Dallas visiting family and attending a wedding of a childhood friend. I begged my daughter to let me snap this picture at the reception. She resisted for a few seconds. In the past she let me keep clicking my iPhone. I’ve learned that her opinions are not fleeting words. She is committed to her point of view. When she says no, it isn’t “I’ll think about it” or “maybe later,” but a decisiveness which separates the shades between child and adult.

This morning we hurled toward another milestone – the first day of 5th grade. My husband and I walked toward a familiar pathway as she forged ahead. She didn’t stop to check if we were following behind; instead, she flung open the door, placed her backpack on the chair and while I talked with her new teacher, she hurried toward the playground. We lingered in the periphery and the metaphor’s meaning amplified. We saw her white bow bouncing as she giggled with her friends and ran across the green blanket of grass. For a moment, I thought she might look back to lock eyes with us. She didn’t.

It’s happening. The letting go. It pierces in ways I failed to fathom. I am still her mother, but the way she leans on me is different. She’s curious, asking questions about the what she observes, the innocence melting into knowledge about people and her world. Perched on the edge of this awareness, she leaps head first, while I am screaming, “Wait a second.” My words echo in an empty room. Her world is expanding. And that leaves me with the question, “What now?”

This lighting bolt of independence is startling. When she was born, her bare body touching my chest, my eyes gazed at her fresh face. Her lids fluttered open and she said “Momma,” even though she was too young to utter those words. Her needs were intertwined and dependent on me. It’s a sharp contrast to what exists now. This march toward adulthood is freckled with transitions for both of us. My desire is to pause the button on knowing too much too soon, but it’s inevitable. How do I reconcile the distance between holding on and letting go?

The answer to this question is one I continue to process. My forties are wrapped with deconstructing so much of what I believed to be true and the discovery of unexpected lessons. Piercing toward the many facets of motherhood, I hobble, tumble, somersault into the next transition trying to navigate the way for both of us. She will find her way. As she should.

At afternoon pickup today, she stood near the bench of her school. When she slid into the backseat, she wasn’t spilling her words. She kept a little part of herself hidden. I probed, but I know she’s learning to navigate this new and scary terrain. Days will be riddled with uncertainty, but I tell myself, It’s always been this way – its when I gave birth to my daughter did I realize its daunting implications.

Another milestone. Always bittersweet.