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Everything seemed fine this morning—really, it did.

The sun was shining as my daughter bounded out of her room and straight into the bathroom to begin getting ready for the day. She ate a good breakfast and got dressed in her free-dress clothes. We chatted and laughed on the way to school. And lest we forget, today was Friday. The best day of all.

But as I unwrapped myself from our goodbye hug and pulled away to look at her one last time before I left, I saw tears streaming down her cheeks. Her face crumpled as she buried it back against my hip.

“My goodness, Zoey!” I exclaimed, startled by her seemingly-out-of-nowhere emotions. “What’s wrong??”

“I don’t know, Mommy,” she said. “I don’t know.”

I held her against my hip for a few moments, long enough to hear another admission escape her lips:

“I just don’t want you to leave.”

But, of course, I had to go.

I wiped her eyes with the back of my sleeve and handed her over to a friend who was blessedly waiting for her with open arms.

As I drove to work, baffled and bewildered, I defaulted to my saving grace in parenting: my mom.

“Corey,” she said. “Think of all the things that are going on. Of course she just wants you. You’re her person.”

After I hung up, I put myself in Zoey’s shoes. We’re in the middle of a move, and she’s fighting with the pull of the memories of our apartment and excitement for our new home. The end of the school year is approaching and, in less than a month, her days will be upheaved again.

Zoey’s always had a hard time with transitions, and we’ve worked over the years to find ways to make saying goodbye easier, be it through secret handshakes or hand-drawn hearts on wrists or extra hugs and kisses. At seven, I would think she would be past this by now.

Yet here I am as an adult, and even I struggle saying goodbye to the people I love. When I say goodbye to my parents after a visit, I feel my heartstrings pull. When I say goodbye to the man I love, I feel a twinge of sadness, hoping the next time I see him is sooner rather than later. And when I say goodbye to Zoey, there is always a distant, dull ache, the one called motherhood, that wants this little extension of me to stay right by my side, forever and always.

So I went to Target on my lunch break and found this sweet little charm necklace, one that I will give her when I pick her up later today.

I will lift up her hair and put it around her neck and tell the story of how I totally understand. That I get it. That saying goodbye is hard for me, too.

I’ll tell her that I hope these nestled hearts help, that the little one fits perfectly inside the big one, just like her heart and mine—and since we can’t always physically be side by side, that I hope she knows she’s always in my heart no matter where each of us is.

I have no idea if this will help. I sure hope it does. But at least I’m trying, day in and day out, to be the best mother I know how to be. To do the best I can and to be there for her the best I can​.

Even if it’s in the form of two tiny rose gold hearts, bought hastily but intentionally on a too-short lunch break, hanging around her neck, representing our love and those hard goodbyes and our fragile, but unbreakable, lifeline to each other.

This post originally appeared on the author’s Facebook page

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So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

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Corey Wheeland

Corey Wheeland is a writer, graphic designer, marketing professional, and mom to her amazing daughter, Zoey. She is the author of the book Blessed, Beautiful Now, a collection of heartfelt essays documenting her post-divorce search to find her authentic self. She is also the creator of The Nostalgia Diaries blog. Corey’s writing has been featured on Motherly, Today's Parent, Red Tricycle, Holl & Lane, and many other online publications.

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