I picked up this baby girl dressed in the pink-and-white-checkered romper with a pink bow on top of her bald head from the airport today. OK, maybe I should re-phrase . . . I picked up this baby girl + 12 years from the airport today. But to me, she will always be my baby.

At almost 13 years old, this tween sitting in my car is years ahead of where I was at her age, which astounds me considering she is living and will always live in a world that is just not made for her.

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Last night we FaceTimed her in her camp dorm room going through the motions of her solo flight home. My husband asked, “Do you want Mom to wait for you, or do you want to just meet her at the exit?”

I paused thinking to myself, Wait . . . what? Of course, I will meet her at the gate, that’s my baby!

But then she replied, “I will just meet her at the exit, I remember the way.”

And then the daggers to my momma heart were felt, she needs me just a little less and it hurts so much.

After we hung up, I told my husband, “I am not ready for her to grow up,” he knew exactly what I meant.

“But she is ready,” he replied.

And I know she is.

Our daughter was born almost 13 years ago with severe visual impairments. She’s also lucky because her dad is a pilot which means she has had the opportunity to travel quite a bit, so she does know the airport layout and she is ready, white cane sweeping through those hallways and all.

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I just need to be OK with letting her go.

As I drove to the airport thinking about this photo of her at 8 months old, I teared up. Disability or not, the whole point is to eventually let them go. At the airport, I prayed I did my job right and smiled . . . even though inside I was crying when I heard her white cane sweeping from around the corner to the exit.

She made it. We both made it.

Hillary Rodriguez

My name is Hillary Rodriguez, and I am a wife and mother of three children. My eldest child was born with severe visual impairments. I volunteer my time with my local Special Education PTA and parent organization for families of children with visual impairments. I believe in teaching children and families to advocate for themselves. In my downtime, I like to walk, read books, and travel with my husband.