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Coffee is made, I take a sip and start to get to work. I’m anxious, tired, and excited all at once. I grab the block of cheese and cut it in little slices to fit the crackers to put in her lunch. I add the apple sauce, yogurt, and a protein bar along with her water bottle. This will be enough for her first day. And I wonder, is this what other high school students eat? I don’t know.

I slice the bagel and put it in the toaster, take the sausage out and wrap a few links in a paper towel to warm in the microwave.

It’s time to get her up.

Good morning, beautiful high school student!” I say with tears and she smiles with her big, bright blue eyes. No matter how tired my girl is, she always wakes with a glow. This light she gives off comes from such a warm and gracious spirit, one that naturally seeps from her pores. I thank God for this every morning. Lord knows I don’t have it, but when I see her I somehow glow, too. It’s contagious.

I tell her to get ready and come downstairs for breakfast and I will do her hair.

She comes down smiling, her face with just a hint of make-up– done perfectly. You can barely tell, but I can. She added just a bit of foundation to smooth out her skin and light mascara to bring out her eyes. She’s wearing the outfit picked last night, a cute hanging loose tied tank top and jean shorts. Nothing fancy, but these days whatever she wears takes my breath away, because she looks so much older. Somewhere in the last few months, she has transformed into a teen. She has grown into this beautiful, mature, young woman, and it startles me in a good way, an emotional way.

She’s grown up.

But she’s still my baby.

After I French braid her hair just how she likes it, she finishes packing her backpack. I tighten the straps and add ice to another water bottle she will carry with her to classes. I give her a pack of gum, and hand her the lunch bag.

She puts her converse shoes on, grabs her bagel and sausage to eat in the car, and suddenly it all feels so real, so fast, so sudden.

It’s time.

I’m taking my girl to high school. How can it be?

As we drive to school, I pray the first prayer of the school year with her.

My eyes well up in tears, as I talk to God and thank Him for this incredible girl he gave me to raise. My voice shakes as I ask Him to protect her, guide her, and shine His light through her on this day, and every day. I am always so grateful for this daily ritual we have. I pray it continues when she’s on her own without me- walking through campus to find her classes at college, driving to work as an adult, and someday, driving her own kids to school.

I wait for her to ask to turn the radio on, but she doesn’t. It’s quiet. A nice quiet, but with a hint of tension. We’re both just breathing our way through this moment.

I’m nervous, Mom.

I know. That’s normal, honey. This is new and exciting and a bit scary too. You are ready for this. You look beautiful. You are smart and strong and kind. You will shine.

She smiles and nods. I sense assurance settle into her heart amidst the trepidation, the anticipation, the wondering.

We walked the halls of the high school one last time the night before. Finding classrooms and trying the locker combination just to be sure she felt ready, prepared, and confident for her first day at this new, big place filled with bigger kids and bigger fears.

I pull into the parking space while looking around at all the students and cars and crowds and my heart flutters and my hands are sweating.

She was looking elsewhere- at the sky behind the school.

Mom! Look at that rainbow!

Oh my gosh, that is GORGEOUS! It’s God’s gift to you, honey. You are SO His favorite.” I smile. She nods. We stare at it in awe.

“I will remember that rainbow forever. Thank you.” I tell God in a silent prayer.

She stares at it for one more second, then takes a big breath knowing she has to let go of that beauty and face her reality.

As she gathers all her things, I grab my phone to take a photo of her. I already agreed to not get out of the car wearing my All I need is Caffeine and Jesus shirt with no bra, no makeup, and my hair tussled on top of my head. I’m no fool. I know better. But she reminds me, to be safe. She knows I can be impulsive when I’m emotional, nervous, excited.

I won’t get out honey. Just one picture before you go! I must!

I still can’t believe she is in high school now. I’m not sure it will ever sink in, but past history reveals the parenting truths yet to come.

Transitions always settle in, find a home, and lead to more transitions.

Raising kids forces the clock and pushes us all toward new things, new places, new challenges, and new experiences. It’s how they grow. It’s how we grow.

But with every new turn, I worry.

Oh, how I worry.

I worry she won’t get her locker combo on the first try, I worry she will start to freak out and frantically try again and again as the bell rings and she’s already late to her first class. I worry she will have to go to the bathroom in the middle of class and be too afraid to ask. I worry some huge senior will accidentally bump into her and she will drop all her books all over the floor and have to pick them all up, amidst the haze of feet and bodies stampeding around her. I worry she will get lost because she isn’t thinking clearly and she will panic and end up on the other side of the school. I worry she won’t find her friends at lunch, that she will choke on her food. I worry she will be starving by lunchtime, that her stomach will be in knots and twisted so tight with hunger because it’s five hours into the day. I worry she will be sitting in classes not knowing a soul and feeling so alone.

I worry.

And as I sit here and quiet my mind in prayer, I think of texting her just to check in and see if she’s okay…

But I don’t.

I must let go.

Over and over and over again.

It’s the hardest part of parenting.

And at the very second I surrender with this conviction– my phone dings. I run over to the counter to grab my phone.

I’m doing good mom.

Ah…

I close my eyes, exhale, open them, smile, inhale deep, exhale again.

She’s doing good.

Everything will be just fine.

But I’ll still worry.

That’s what parents do.

Christine Carter

Christine Carter writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications and she is the author of "Help and Hope While You're Healing: A woman's guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness." and “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World.” Both books sold on Amazon.

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