05/26/2016 12:56 EDT | Updated 05/27/2017 05:12 EDT

How I'll Survive My Daughter's Transition To Daycare

Images By Tang Ming Tung via Getty Images
First person view of dad holding lovely little daughter's hand strolling on the street while talking to each other.

Change is on the way, and I am not ready for it. Daycare is your destination, the next step in your development, but my heart is struggling at the thought of letting you go. For two and a half years I have loved you and worried about you, nearly in equal measure. For every moment of heart-bursting happiness there have been anguished interludes of anxiety. Now this new journey is upon us, just around the corner on the calendar.

How will you fare with strangers? Will your quiet nature mean you are passed over? When we leave you at the start of the day, will you understand you have not been abandoned?

Parenting is exhausting, both physically and mentally. The worry just never goes away. When you were born, my mother's intuition kicked in, but so did my rumination. I constantly scrutinized your little body and examined your behaviour to make sure you were "normal." I let my mind run away with itself on a routine basis.

When I found out one of your toes turned in slightly, it felt like a catastrophe. When your sleeper seemed to bunch up on one side, I made the paediatrician measure your legs to make sure they were the same size. I obsessed over tiny blood vessels on your forehead, barely visible under the surface of your beautiful face. The list of things I secretly researched was long: stork bites, colic and blocked tear ducts are just some of things that consumed me.

Back then, nothing about you escaped my notice. You were my baby, an extension of myself that I had to protect. Now you are older and the tether has loosened. You are growing more into yourself.

You always seem to be in motion: running down the hall, dancing in the kitchen, jumping at the park. Sometimes I watch you and think: You are leaping headlong into your future, little one. You are already moving away from me, and you don't even realize it.

In flight, you are a stunning sight, a toddler teetering on the verge of girlhood. It makes me proud, but it also makes me sad. There will come a day when you won't lay your head on my shoulder before bed. A time when you don't demand to be carried everywhere. You will make friends. You will become fully self-sufficient. This is completely how it should be, but the future me still feels a little lonely at the thought.

One day I will turn around and you won't be sitting in the car seat behind me; you will be the one driving. That day is still far away, but this new path you are on is another step in that direction. Part of me wants to keep you close forever, tucked up safe in my motherly cocoon. A place where no one can hurt your feelings or say something mean. Of course I know this can't happen, but I feel the urge all the same.

My mind recognizes the benefits of starting new chapters. I see the advantage of more socialization. I so want you to spread your wings, to explore the world and all it has to offer. But as your mother, I know I'll also feel a little left behind.

It's because I know you by heart that I want what's best and worry about the rest. But you need to grow up and become the wonderful woman you are meant to be, and that involves gaining independence and self-confidence in your own abilities.

The world will not always be kind; you will learn that, too. And my lesson, as always, will be about when to hang on, and when to let go of you. There will be moments when you come home to me in tears, the hurt fresh on your face. These are they days I dread, for they will take their toll on me as well, but I promise to be strong for you. To comfort you and hold you, no matter what age you are. You can lay your head in my lap just like I used to do with my mother when I had a tough day at school.

Please remember that you can always find shelter in my heart.

Little love, that space you occupy is reserved only for you. My first born, my emotional twin, never forget how special you are. Even though I'm starting to send you out into the world alone, I will always carry a part of your heart with me.

So when you start daycare and take that baby step toward the rest of your life, know it's okay to feel shaky inside and a little blue. But keep your head up, and hold fast to these truths: Mama always comes back. Mama will always be there. Mama will never stop loving you.

Follow Tara's story as she writes about finding the poetic moments in the chaos of everyday parenting.

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