At first, it was just me. You weren’t even a glimmer in my mind.

Through the night-feedings. The early-morning cuddles. The midday naps. The evening tears.

Through the first steps. The puddle-jumping. The mess-making.

Through the first words. The nighttime stories. The bedtime dance-parties.

Through trying new foods. The cooking adventures. The we’ll-clean-it-up-later kitchen messes.

It was just her and me. Her eyes were all mine. Fixed on me. And only me. From one adventure to the next. I had her undivided attention. And an adoration that words can’t explain. My heart was full.

Yet, there was still an ever-present tugging.

Before I knew it, you became an outline. A shadow. A distant figure. Almost haunting, following us around. You became all-too-real.

You started to creep into my dreams. You kept me up at night. Fighting to hold back the tears. And sometimes, letting them fall free. You were the cause of my worry. My uncertainty. My fears.

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And I began to wonder. What you might look like. How you might talk. Your demeanor. Your carefulness. Your way with her.

Questions rolled through my mind . . . 

Would she like you?
How would you care for her?
Would you wipe away her tears?
Would you hold her hand tightly?

Would you cheer her on to the finish line?
Would you emphasize character, above all?
Would I like you?
Would you be open with me?
Would you erase my fears?
Would you let us help you cheer her on?
Would there be room for us both?

But, we couldn’t stop time. And that night finally came. Just hours before we would meet. My eyes were swollen. My heart was full. My stomach was in knots.

She had been our world. Our light. Our baby. Our growing girl. Ours and only ours. We were selfish. And we knew it. But we couldn’t help it.

Until we met you.

I will never forget those first steps through the school doors.

Watching her excitement. As she skipped and walked, simultaneously, through the brightly-decorated hallways. Not a care in the world.

I made sure she couldn’t see my tears. Only my smile. Even though I could not say any words. For the lump in my throat was silencing.

The door to your room came all-too-soon, and we were finally face-to-face.

You held out your hand, and your eyes said it all.

“I promise she will like me. I will do everything possible to take great care of her. We have plenty of tissues and Band-Aids, too. I will hold her hand firmly. I will pull out my pom-poms. I will make sure she knows I am proud!

“You will like me too, I am certain. We will talk often. It’s OK to cry. I know she’s your baby. I have two of my own. We have plenty of tissues. You can take some home. My door is always open. You can cheer as loud as you’d like.

“And yes, please know, from the bottom of my heart, there is room for us both.”

And that’s when I knew. Deep within my heart. In the trenches of my soul. In every corner of my mind. With every ounce of my being.

You were the bridge.

You would protect her from troubled waters. Watch over her when she was smooth-sailing. Shelter her from the storms.

You were our walkway. And her path. From our protective universe. Into this huge and scary and exciting “real” world. Ready and waiting. To help her make her mark.

You were built just for her. Just for us.

And now, you are everywhere. In our car rides. Sitting at our dinner table. Reprimanding stuffed animals during playtime.

You have more influence in my home than I do some days. She wants to please you even when you are not around. She wants you to be proud of her. Even when she can’t see you. Together, hand-in-hand, we have created something incredible.

And every day, as she pulls away from my embrace. As she turns one last time to wave goodbye. As we exchange I love yous and kisses floating through the air. With her shoes tied tightly, walking across the street to her big, yellow-bus. And with her heart ready to learn.

I know she will be ready when her feet cross through the door and onto the bridge once more.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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Liz Spenner

Liz is a former elementary teacher and now a stay-at-home mama to five little ones. She writes as an inspiration to other women, and most especially mothers on her blog, at www.simplycomplexmom.com. Liz loves spending with her family, outside as often as possible, as well as sneaking a few moments to herself with a run, dark chocolate or cup of tea.