This is the part that gets me.

Come Monday morning, I’ll be rushing to get you and your younger siblings out the door and into the car so we can make it to the various drop-off spots on time. I’ve been doing this routine for five and a half years now: getting you ready, helping you get ready, and now—just telling you to get ready, loading up the car, and dropping you off to learn and play while I go to work. From drop-off to pick-up, we are apart for nine to 10 hours a day.

So the twinge of leaving you or thinking of you being without me for a good chunk of the day? Doesn’t really twinge when I think of you starting kindergarten in just two days.

Because you are a daycare kid.

From 11-weeks-old until this very day, I’ve dropped you off and picked you up in this exact parking lot five days a week.

Five and a half years ago, I walked through that door with you in my arms as a new little baby, my arms laden with too many bottles of pumped milk (because I didn’t know how many you’d need) and my spirit laden with worry about my first baby spending her day with strangers.

Today, you’ll bound out that door, a full-on kid—your long arms laden with art projects and your spirit laden with confidence because you’ve spent not just the day, but years, with people who know you and love you.

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Those people fed you bottle after bottle when I wasn’t there to feed you myself. They helped you learn to walk and caught you when you fell, wiping away tears as my proxy. They taught you to spell your name and count to 100. I came to recognize the phone number that accompanied the familiar voice on the other end saying, “Not an emergency, Mom, but…” informing me of yet another tumble you took from the playground, or of another “incident” you had with a friend.

These people that started off as strangers in a strange building became the faces and names you’d come to tell me about on the daily, in the place you’d come to think of as a second home.

My strong, emotional, wild-child of a girl. You are who you are because of genes, and your dad’s and my parenting, of course. But you are also who you are because of this place. Because of these wonderful people who not only let you be who you are but encouraged it with love. And I know you won’t remember a lot of these first five years when you grow up.

But oh man, I will.

As your mama, I’ll remember the complete relief I felt after realizing the people at your daycare not only kept you safe and fed, but happy and loved as well.

I’ll remember the peace I had dropping you off day after day, being able to go to work and do my job without wondering how you were being treated all day.

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I’ll remember the excitement and joy on your face in the pictures and videos I received during the day from your teachers and the smile on mine in return.

So, on Monday, as you start your new adventure in kindergarten, where you will learn all the things and make all the new friends, I’ll not be emotional that you’re growing up and leaving the house. Because you’ve been doing that for years.

It’s this part that gets me about this kindergarten thing: your last day at this place that has come to feel like an extension of my love for you.

A place filled with people I’ve trusted with you, my greatest joy, for five years.

So my love, if you climb in the van this afternoon after walking through that door for the very last time, and see that my eyes are puffy, know that I’m praying your next place will be as safe and secure for you as this one has been.

Because as your mama, that’s all I really want for you. To feel loved and secure wherever you are, even if I can’t be there, too.

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page.

Kiley Hillner

Kiley Hillner lives in Texas with her husband and two beautiful daughters. She works full time and recently graduated with her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is loving life and embracing the chaotic beauty of motherhood. You can find more of her thoughts on this parenting gig on her blog and on Facebook.