Last month, my oldest daughter turned 12. Twelve—the word feels bulky and foreign as it stumbles over my tongue. 

She’s official a pre-teen now, with one foot in childhood and the other stepping into womanhood. 

She’s ready, I know, for this growing up stuff. There’s a quiet confidence in her eyes, an emerging strength in her countenance that speaks to the capable young woman she’s becoming. 

But as her mother? I’m still trying to stop seeing her as the little girl who made me a mother all those years ago. 

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Then I heard this song by fellow mother of a tween daughter, JJ Heller, and it basically turned me into a weepy mess.

The song, called “Learning To Let You Go,” is all about the bittersweet business of watching our babies grow from infancy to independence. 

Grab a tissue (heck, better get the whole box) and have a listen

As Heller writes in an Instagram post about creating the song, “When I first brought this little girl home from the hospital, she taught me what it meant to put someone else’s needs before my own. She showed me how well(-ish) I could function on not enough sleep and what it means to love unconditionally. And now, as she starts her first day of middle school, she’s teaching me how to start letting go.⁣”

Oh boy, do I FEEL that.

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Especially this year, when so much of the familiar world of school and friends and everyday activities has been interrupted by a global pandemic, those not-quite-kids/not-quite-women daughters of ours are trapped in a limbo we’d love nothing more than to deliver them out of. 

But we can’t. And really, we shouldn’t anyway.

We have to let them do the hard work of growing up—and that’s new for both of us. 

I suppose it’s just one more way our mother/daughter relationship is evolving. My not-so-little girl is stepping into her autonomy and maturity, and I’m learning to fall in step ever so slightly behind her capable lead. 

It’s not always easy—but if there’s one thing a dozen years of motherhood has taught me, the destination will be worth the journey. 

Carolyn Moore

Carolyn traded a career in local TV news for a gig as a stay-at-home mom, where the days are just as busy and the pay is only slightly worse. She lives in flyover country with her husband and four young kids, and occasionally writes about raising them at Assignment Mom